(Vital Weekly) It was more than thirty years ago that I was first in contact with Jeff Surak. He had a solo musical project, 1348, a label (Watergate Tapes; he is from Washington DC after all), and a group New Carrolton. Surak was one of those active players in the worldwide cassette scene. Beyond that, I stayed in contact with Jeff on and off, though, fair enough, more off. At one point, he was the organiser of the Sonic Circuits Festival in his home town and still runs a label, Zeromoon. Many of the releases are digital-only but occasionally in a physical form. I heard only a fraction from his massive body of work, certainly when it comes to his more recent output. Likewise, I am also a bit in the dark about the sort of technology used by him. From my recollection, I would say Surak uses electronics, be it stompboxes or laptops, in combination with acoustic instruments. I remember a zither was one of them and judging by the music here. I can still see him using one. Surak's music is a fine combination of both ends. The zither (and other acoustica at his disposal) sometimes played rather loosely, almost as if in an improvised manner. Picked up the laptop, Surak alters the scenery, and it all becomes coherent and together. He serves loops, rhythms, drones, usually in an intricate pattern. Although we no longer recognise them, I'm sure field recordings found their way into the music. Throughout, the mood of his music is on the dark side, but not exclusively; it isn't all too bright either. Surak's music is profound and sturdy. He doesn't care too much for things being quiet and spaced out, even when '16 Hours on Neptune' suggests he likes that. 'Parasite Lost' covers the whole first side and is Surak's at his most droniest and, at times, loud with piercing sounds. On the other side, there are four pieces, all quite different from each other. All of this makes up the perfect showcase for Surak's many interests. - Frans de Waard
(Lost In A Sea Of Sound)Long lengths of aural expanses fueled by experience and wise creativity. We listen floating on rafts in the ocean. The artist controlling sonic space. Dreamy stars above as tranquil rocking motion soothes concerns, blistering heat baking skin and mind, and hellish swells arriving unseen in the night expanse. Jeff Surak throws listeners and life rafts overboard. The sounds he shares are intense transitions in ambient beauty. The first side of Eris I Dysnomia is one long piece titled Parasite Lost. An incredible diversity of aural landscapes held tightly in check. Jeff Surak provides restful warmth, mind frazzling single tones and subtle mysteries for imaginations to ponder. The flip of the cassette introduces shorter selections paced with erosive forces of nature. Jeff Surak creating micro environments where sounds create individual worlds to get lost in. The longest of the four tracks on this side, “Asphalt Muzak” is the overshadowing example. A drip of a faucet echoing through pipes and the minds of those who listen. Mesmerizing beauty in the simplest sonic format. Then the rhythm laden “Stuck”, reaching back into industrial origins. Finishing is gorgeous space dust filled ambient goo titled “16 Hours to Neptune”. A great composition by a long enduring prolific artist. Released on the Eh? Label in cassette format. You can see the massive body of work by Jeff Surak on the Zeromoon label. Start with this cassette on Eh? though. It does not get much better. Copies are available from Eh?-Robot Rattle
(Disaster Amnesiac) Recent big life changes have rendered Disaster Amnesiac unable to really think, let alone blog, but thanks to Public Eyesore/eh? Records and a laptop on loan from Mrs. Amnesiac, I'm back, however briefly, and digging on delicious, intriguing drones and tones from Jeff Surak and his recent Eris I Dysnomia cassette! Side A's entirety is made up of Parasite Lost, in which discrete elements are blended into a whole, that while seemingly simple on its face, rewards repeated listens. It's been fun to just give in to Parasite's granular depths, and while Surak hints at clues being given to an attentive listener, whose task is then to start their own mental journey within the sounds, the track is juicy enough to go beyond being mere intellectual exercise. Indeed, as I've listened, I have enjoyed flights from the various sounds' colors and textures as they've floated past. It's been quite pleasurable to take the trip that these sounds can induce within an attentively focused imagination. Layers are mixed in ways that evoke wheat pasted poster fragments on old power poles; big tone washes give glimpses of ozone-saturated skies; feedback sounds take me to late night street scenes of buzzing electrical lines; bits of the overtones series whirl by in technicolor; mysterious clanks and clangs move the mind to some imagined junkyard on the outskirts of town (mine is in SF's China Basin, near 3rd St.) These actions all occur within a very seamlessly crafted work of Musique Concrete. Parasite Lost does a fine job of fusing technique with artistry. On Side B, we find four individual tracks. Concupiscent Strings utilizes what sounds like loose metallic guitar strings for a study in quivery. These treated strings throw off glistening, gamelan sounds and brief clips of pure white noise as Surak digs deeply into their physicality. Gravelly, gritty physicality for the ears here. Next up, on Asphalt Muzak, strange start-stop modalities are derived from.....something. Surak's admonition to a listener "finding their own direction" is instructive here. This track has an opaque quality that makes Disaster Amnesiac feel as though I'm immersed in some kind of underwater vehicle and descending. Not exactly blissful, but intriguing nonetheless. Stuck features a fusion of analog synth sounds, bubbling and burping in contrast to wider drone tones. It's as if one has found a way out of the sinking ship of the previous track and into a cave of luminous crystals and bizarre rock formations. It's very lovely to inhabit this mental space as the underwater lights reflect off of the roof! Percussive attacks then bolster a kind of Space Lounge Music and you hear a voice intoning some kind of spoken language, but you can't really figure out what it's saying, and then it gets blasted out by washes of sheer white Noise for an ending. Set closer 16 Hours on Neptune has an kind of New Age feel as the Surak brings back the technique of layering what sounds like multiple sound sources into a sublime environment of shimmery sonic cotton candy. What a deliciously poetic way to walk out! Washington D.C resident Jeff Surak has spent a ton of time producing music and helping others produce theirs. All of this work shows up in really great ways within Eris I Dysnomia, surely. Fans of creatively constructed Noise/Musique Concrete/Industrial will surely love this recent offering from him. If you're one of these people, get on over to the Public Eyesore/eh? Records sight and float him some coin. - Mark Pino
(Bad Alchemy) JEFF SURAK ist in Washington DC von 1348 bis Violet ein Kassettentäter von der frühen Ära an und bis heute mit Zeromoon ein unermüdlicher Macher von Intelligent Noise Music of the non-entertainment genre. Eris I Dysnomia (eh?118, C50) zeigt ihn mit 'Asphalt Muzak', vom gewitzten 'Parasite Lost' bis '16 Hours on Neptune'. Er spielt mit Eisenkugel Tietchens'sches Roulette unter einer dröhnenden Kuppel, der Sprache verlustig, die Hoffnung eine sirrende Endlosschlaufe, die sich zuletzt kaputt dreht. Oder stehen Zwietracht und Ungesetzlichkeit unter diskordianischen Vorzeichen? Holy cow, ich zähle 5 Tracks und höre Flötentöne und Zithersaiten von spinnenbeiniger Lüsternheit. Gefolgt von schlurchig-kakophoner, tickeliger, brodeliger, vogeliger Wallung und von 'Stuck,' zu einer verwackelten, verkrachten Funkstimme ausnehmend groovy. Und zuletzt kreist Surak mit einem monoton bepochten, leicht verzerrten Drone am Arsch des Sonnensystems. - Rigo Dittman
(Tabs Out) Dysnomia is the only known moon of the dwarf planet Eris and likely the second-largest known moon of a dwarf planet, after Pluto I Charon. Dysnomia is an aphasia in which the patient forgets words or has difficulty finding words for written or oral expression. Welcome to the future. We’re here right now, live at the source: DC-based Jeff Surak’s latest tape offering Eris I Dysnomia. Surak’s name is new to me, perhaps new to you, but to the annals of home taping he’s about as decorated and astute as they come. The mail order web page links reviews that reveal “at one point, he was the organiser of the Sonic Circuits Festival” and that he’s still been rweaving a spirally-stricken labyrinth of tapes and digitals out on his own ZEROMOON label. For Eris I Dysnomia, he’s struck up a bountiful piece of ferric for Public Eyesore’s Eh? Imprint that highlights a litany of loquacious droning and sonic detachments. Dysnomia is a newfangled big brain word. Naturally it has two distinct definitions (see above) that delineate a location and a feeling that Surak makes a smack-dab layup out of over the C50 here. Side A is all “Parasite Lost”, a slow burn for a grey day on a black sand beach. Surak is less about piercing,wailing soundscapes than imparting a suggestive, percolative quality to display. Where we start with cyclical motors and whispering winds quickly drones together and mends an image of an omnibus factory just out of reach; by the time we’ve reached it there’s another sound space that we’re circling towards; equally out of reach and yet thrice as piercing. By the time we reach that space, the sounds of hinterlands seem to push us ahead. Each mome Surak invites listeners on this journey, trusting that each step of the way, each new found low hum or instrument inversion, we’ll stay focused on the present moment, where we are now, not headed. Side B meanwhile decides to peel back the longform and instead highlight Surak’s own tenacious sound experiments. More concrete abstractions like “Concupiscent Strings” and “Asphalt Muzak” are as present-oriented as “Parasite Lost”. They marvel at their own gristling, precocious sound of the moment. Although for brief flickers, “Asphalt Muzak” hints at a subconscious pop prerogative that “Stuck” actually channels into a vapory, disintegrating two and a half minute detente. It’s a bizarre, but warranted moment on the tape that palette cleanses “16 Hours on Neptune”’s rather blissed out passage to the other side. Needless to say, Surak’s hodgepodge of ideas allude to a career that I can only hope shows further signs in my inbox soon. - Matty McPherson
(Kathodik) Da Washington DC, la sperimentazione post-industrial di Jeff Surak. Attivo dal principio degli anni ottanta come uno dei tanti combattenti mondiali del nastro, gestore della label Zeromoon e nel carnet, una bella sfilza di collaborazioni (Frans De Waard, Alexei Borisov di Astma, Rinus Van Alebeek solo per citarne alcuni). “Eris I Dysnomia”, è ottimo insieme di cupi nuvoloni ambientali (la persuasiva, iniziale, Paradise Lost), silenzi e corde sollecitate (Concupiscent Strings), inquieti taglia e cuci etno-concreti (Asphalt Muzak), squarci di cielo e nubi (Stuck) e solo cielo (16 Hours On Neptune). - Marco Carcasi
(Sands-Zine) Qualcuno mi dovrebbe spiegare che senso c’è oggi nel pubblicare e nel comprare le musicassette. Da buon cronista, quale credo di essere, ho capito prima di altri il ritorno in auge di questo mezzo per veicolare la musica. Da mediocre psicologo, e men che mediocre esperto di tendenze, non ne ho però afferrato in pieno le ragioni. Da pessimo tecnico, quale sono, mi sono poi pienamente oscuri le motivazioni che fanno preferire una musicassetta a un CD. Ma forse, per capire davvero il fenomeno, servirebbe uno psichiatra.
Noi qui dobbiamo però parlare dei contenuti, della musica che dentro a tali supporti viene trasmessa, e quindi ce ne freghiamo del recipiente che la contiene e che, comunque, per correttezza riportiamo ben specificato nei dati tecnici. Se quello che conta è la qualità della musica, più del supporto che la contiene, posso assicurarvi che raramente si trova su CD e/o su vinile musica di pari livello a quella prodotta dalla eh? (marchio sussidiario della Public Eyesore). Ci siamo occupati recentemente della eh? recensendo una bella cassetta di Erin Demastes, ed ecco qua scodellate tre nuove uscite che faranno felici i fan del nastrino uber alles. Nella prima delle tre il tedesco Jeff Surak ci presenta, racchiuse dietro un’inquietante immagine, cinque composizioni in forma di collage sonoro. Il primo brano occupa l’intero lato A del nastrino e per 24 minuti sottopone l’ascoltatore a una cascata di suoni rotolanti e risonanze sibilanti. Dopo aver raggiunto il suo zenit il blocco sonoro, al pari dello sferragliare di un treno, si allontana gradualmente attenuandosi fino a lasciare un’ovvia memoria di se. Parasite Lost fa inevitabilmente pensare alla sinfonie concrete di Francisco López. Il secondo lato si apre con un estremo fair play, creato con i suoni di uno strumento a corde, che suonano però come allentate in un effetto straniante. Il leitmotiv iniziale è riproposto in Asphalt Muzak, seppure in questo caso i percorsi sonori siano nettamente più frantumati e ruotino intorno a gocciolamenti e ticchettii di indole un po’ paranoica. In Stuck lo scenario cambia totalmente, e un ritmo e una melodia incalzanti, seppur minimali, stringono d’assedio una voce disturbata di tipo radiofonico. Un battito più lento e ossessivo accompagna una planata spaziale nei restanti cinque minuti. Nient’altro da segnalare per questa cassetta molto varia e in grado d’appassionare più d’un lettore. - Mario Biserni