Distractfold Ensemble + Ute Wassermann & Mark Knoop / Bludenzer Tage Zeitgemäßer Musik, Bludenz, 03.10.19

…if we strip a thing of all its disposable dimensions, we reach a state of ineffability. It is as if we could detect… at the heart of existence, something ineffable that does the job of ‘being that thing’; the receptacle of each and every name, itself standing before names.

Federico Campagna, Technic and Magic

1. Dreamt in Fire
2. And Despite The Support Of Your Despair
3. There Ain’t No Black In The Union Jack
4. How To Build A Machine

Midlands is many things to me. It is equally psychogeographic and biomythographic. The psychogeographic is concerned with the city of Derby, in the Midlands of the UK.

Derby is the site of the first water-powered cotton mill, the engine of the Industrial Revolution and William Blake’s original “dark Satanic Mill”. And yet, Derby today is largely post-industrial. To gather this thread of the narrative of Midlands, I walked the 120km of the River Derwent, a river that bisects Derby and whose flow shaped our world.

The biomythographic is concerned with my experience of growing up in Derby as Other in the 1980s. Now, in my own midlife, I wish to channel these experiences, with alchemical aims.

Thus, finally, the outline of the territory of Midlands begins to reveal itself. It describes a literal and ineffable geography, an exterior and interior landscape. Or else, it is a ritual, undertaken to transform darkness into light.

“How To Build A Machine” contains a sample from “Acid Test” by Gorilla (Whitby, Kersey, Cooper, Gatford), which is taken from the Extended Play EP and used with the permission of the authors.

Special thanks to Clara Iannotta & Iain Reekie.

Distractfold Ensemble:

Rocío Bolaños, clarinets, objects and electronics
Daniel Brew, electric guitar
Linda Jankowska, violin, objects and electronics
Alice Purton, cello, objects and electronics
Emma Richards, viola, objects, percussion and electronics
Sam Salem, diffusion

Commissioned by Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik, funded by the Ernst Von Siemens Foundation.  Premiered 3rd October 2019, Bludenz.

Guest performers:

Mark Knoop, keyboard and accordion
Ute Wassermann, voice


Sam Weaver, sound engineer

Emily Moore, producer

‘The work stands outside any common form and expression of a piece of music – it is a kind of staging, a Gesamtkunstwerk of light, live music and electronically embellished sound collages in a precisely ingenious sound design with exactly synchronous multimedia feeds.


And it quickly becomes clear: this unique performance undoubtedly has substance and creates its own pull, in which the concentration on stage is as high as in the hall. It tells the story of a ritual journey through Derby’s post-industrial hometown of composer Sam Salem. In a permanent half-light, this is almost meditative, carried on by an indefinable dark noise, from which the scratching of the strings and air sounds of the wind players flare up again and again to keep the soup from simmering.


The Voice is also just part of the whole, an instrumental voice between whispers and choking, far from any claim to beauty. Meanwhile, one focusses on the thrilling images in the four movements, which deal with fireworks, cotton-nature images, the British flag that breaks down into their components (“There Ain’t No Black In The Union Jack”) and rattling looms.’


The Freedom of Art Preserved / Die Freiheit der Kunst gewahrt, Vorarlberger Nachrichten, 04.10.2019