CD – 12 tracks – 40:20
Photography: Jon Wozencroft & Heitor Alvelos
Mastered by Denis Blackham
6. Vicarious Solace
7. The Way of Malamat
9. The Other
10. Home, Elicited
11. The Hopeful Night
Faith is the first full-length sound release by media researcher and curator Heitor Alvelos under his own name. Heitor Alvelos has been a long-time on/off collaborator of Touch, having on occasion provided photography and stage visuals for Biosphere, Fennesz, BJNilsen, Rafael Toral and Philip Jeck, as well as releasing sound pieces under the aliases Autodigest, Antifluffy and Before Surgery, on Ash International, TouchRadio and The Tapeworm.
“The essence of the present piece is autobiographical: therefore the use of my own name”, the author clarifies. “And yet it aims at being resonant to others”: in this context, resonance may be regarded as both semantic and visceral, as the sound frequencies on Faith are often of the kind that “rearrange one’s organs”, to quote the recently departed Bernadette Martou. A necessity in order to carry the gravitas inherent to the subject, a confessional confrontation with the zeitgeist.
All sources have been gathered, recorded and produced throughout five decades, all the way back to a recording by Francisco Alvelos in 1972 that closes the release. Elsewhere, sounds have been processed to various degrees, the bookends retaining their original contexts, others mutating into deep abstraction. Overall, they flow as one single composition, evocative and foreboding in equal measures.
The etymology of the word “terrific” starts with “terror”. The more you are terrorized by something, the more terrific it is. And sometimes, possibly due to human nature’s inability to deal with the uncertain, the absence of things can terrorize us silly. If someone you deeply care for has fallen silent, you find yourself wishing that they would just start chewing you out already. The human race finds silence more uncomfortable than fighting. We don’t know what lurks in silence, so we address things to avoid the silence. We’re so good at it that we don’t know how to address silence itself.
That’s just one over analytical reason why quiet music probably doesn’t really sell. A less glib way to put it is that these frightening bouts of silence don’t qualify as music. Stretch silence to its breaking point and people may even lose their patience with it as pure art. In every classroom is a skeptic. And in every classroom where music history is taught, that’s skeptic’s hand shoots straight up into the air by the time the professor gets to talking about John Cage. And these people may have a point. If we can’t easily define what music is, we can surely define what it isn’t. To these people, John Cage sitting down at a piano for over four minutes and doing nothing is not music. Heitor Alvelos’s debut album for Touch is definitely good for giving everyone pause, even the Cage apologists.
Alvelos’s previous collaborations with artists on the Touch roster have been more visual in nature than musical. His ability to “see” the music of his peers has helped enhance the performances of fellow Touch artists Biosphere and Rafael Toral. For Faith, he goes it alone with nothing but field recordings stretching a period of 41 years to serve as his source material. In all of my years listening to music, I won’t say how many, never have I sensed such heavy atmosphere derived from such meager means. To put it more simply, I haven’t heard so much done with so little. It is, well, terrific.
Faith is stitched together from tracks that last from anywhere from 18 seconds to ten minutes. Opener “Errant” is 61 seconds of dead air. After a soft electronic “bong” signals the end of “Errant”, Faith then spends the following six minutes building upon a low hum. As the hum swells outwards, the negative space gives way to mid-range murmurs. The truly beautiful thing is that the sources of the tension for “Exodus”, “Edict”, and “Alluvion” can be just about anything. For all we know, Heitor Alvelos could have stuck his microphone inside of a regriferator and left it there overnight.
“Pseudoself” takes over the intensely low hum and somehow makes it more eerie. It’s as if you were transported onboard a 31st century spaceship with only the sounds of the engine keeping you company. “Pseudoself” and “The Way of Malamat” are the longest tracks on Faith, together taking up 45% of the album’s space. It’s safe to say that if Faith had a central nervous system, then “Pseudoself” is the eight minute journey there while “The Way of the Malamat” is a ten minute dance with the impulses. Faith‘s falling action leads to an unlisted track where Francisco Alvelos (a relative?) asks or states something in another language. A younger voice tries to “answer”, but the track cuts off after only 18 seconds.
To say that Faith doesn’t qualify as music could almost be taken as a compliment. Music doesn’t terrify you the way Faith does. I’m not saying that music cannot be terrifying on its own, because it can. Heitor Alvelos’s debut album can haunt you on a level that conventional music just cannot reach—unless we stretch the very definition of the word “music”. And if we do that, albums like Faith will be cornerstones for a whole new movement. And when expanding the very definition of “music”, who better to lead the charge than a photographer? 9/10
Heitor Alvelos is no stranger to the Touch label, having collaborated as a visual artist with the big names of the label such as Fennesz, BJ Nilsen, and Philip Jeck, as well as issuing sound work under a variety of pseudonyms on the associated labels. Faith is a collection of processed sound recordings and “audio irregularities”, and due to their more personal and autobiographical source, it is the first record released under his own name. Essentially a single composition split into 12 segments, it is a sparse and murky record, steeped heavily in an analog sound.
Culled from a variety of unspecified recordings collected by the artist since 1972, most of Faith has Alvelos sticking to an open mix, working in bass heavy sounds at often very low volumes, conjuring a sense of space and ambiguity that often becomes unsettling. “Exodus” and “Edict” both have a ghostly rumble to them, distant and unspecific but always there. During the latter he begins to increase the volume and simultaneously the intensity.
On “Allvion” into “Pseudoself” the sound becomes deeper: a wavering expanse of noise that evolves into something with significant depth and variety, but never stops being discomforting. The latter especially sees Alvelos working with monotone electronics and a heavy low-frequency passage that slowly evolves and changes to become all encompassing, climaxing and leading into the silent passage of “Vicarious Solace”.
He builds the minimalist, rumbling hum back up on the lengthy “The Way of Malamat.” Superficially, the droning bass may seem static, but perceptible variations become prominent, at times looping into an almost rhythmic passage that again reaches a heavier, denser saturation point but never too oppressive. This continues through “Peirasmos” and “The Other,” the latter resembling the muffled vibration of machinery.
In its concluding minutes, “The Hopeful Night” has him stripping the piece back to its barest essentials, largely consisting of a low volume buzz that would not be out of place on Bernhard Günter’s work, albeit his sound being more digital than the analog warmth that is more prominent on Alvelos’ work. The single piece that is Faith never becomes overly boisterous or forceful, but its concluding passages are especially understated.
The intentionally ambiguous source of the recordings Heitor Alvelos used to construct Faith does add an extra layer of interest to the album. Rarely does anything ever resemble what we usually consider to be a field recording, so either his processing or his selection of unconventional sources are what makes this album, probably a connection of both. It is sparse and minimalist, but done with an exceptional sense of grace and poise. [Creaig Dunton]
The Quietus (UK):
The two times I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing Heitor Alvelos’ actions was when he performed a 39 second set as Autodigest at Touch’s 30th birthday event and at The Tapeworm’s fifth anniversary celebrations where he was wrapping the audience in spools of ferric oxide. The former saw him compressing Touch’s entire 30 year output into a short, sharp blast and the latter was in tandem to handing out the 73rd Tapeworm release, suitably titled Free Tape whose box contained just that, a jumbled mess of tape in tribute to the memory of the Walkman’s mastications. But for Faith the Portuguese artist and academic researcher in design, media and culture, uses his own name to author a more solemn and spiritual work. Described as “autobiographical” and an “acknowledgment of the deeply intimate as a regenerative force: fragility, humility, desolation, trauma”. Faith’s 11 tracks are formed of field recordings and “audio irregularities” from the past four decades. But, whereas autobiographies tend to use words, Alvelos deliberately chooses deep, contemplative layers of suspended sonic qualities that bypass the clumsier negotiations of speech and text. Flowing as a single piece rather than 12 vignettes, it largely consists of what could be described as a series of auras (words like ‘drone’, as ever, feeling too limited and one dimensional). The opening piece, ‘Errant’ could be a short recording from within an air conditioner, while longer pieces such as ‘Pseudoself’ and ‘The Way Of The Malamat’ are more expansive like being up in the troposphere travelling through a cloud’s formation or at the bottom of a deep, rumbling chasm. Each has a increasing presence that develops steadily, commanding a powerful poise like the otherwise stolid monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course, with sounds so abstracted their literal significance is only known to the composer, but such is the refined quality of their passage the emotive essence of Alvelos’ Faith is both intensely and tenderly clear. [Russell Cuzner]
Longtime Touch collaborator gets right under the skin with this intently focussed album of bleak drones. Heitor Alvelos is perhaps best known for his photography on the cover of Biosphere’s ‘Substrata’ beside a plethora of other work for the roster, such as Fennesz, BJNilsen, Rafael Toral and Phillip Jeck. Visual work aside, his music has been released under as Autodigest, Antifluffy and Before Surgery thru Ash International and The Tapeworm, too. With ‘Faith’ he commits his debut solo recordings, a low-lit showcase of gloomy spectres and confessional confrontation manifest as dense, monolithic slabs of low end harmonic molasses and parched, slow moving noise texture. For their powerful sense of impending doom and abyssal space, and ability to sustain the rarest sort of frequency pressure, they’re probably best compared with a fine range of sonic alchemists, from the work of Zbigniew Karkowski to Helge Sten (Deathprod) and The Hafler Trio or Mika Vainio at his most unnerving. Recommended.
Merchants of Air (Belgium):
Sound composers, or audio-visual artists are a strange breed of people. They seem to live in their own world and create things that are simply unimaginable to others. These artists have a special gift: the ability to hear music everywhere. Busy roads become drones, pouring rain becomes percussion and empty buildings become temples of resonance. There is indeed music everywhere, but to be able to experience it, you need to extend your definition of the word ‘music’. Many people have been doing that during the past decades and a lot of brilliant albums have been released, bringing joy to thousands.
Heitor Alvelos is a name that might ring a bell. Besides his own projects like The Tapeworm, Autodigest or Antifluffy, he cooperated with the likes of Biosphere, Fennesz & BJ Nilsen, mainly providing photos and stage visuals. This latest release, the first one under his own name, is a very personal and autobiographic album. ‘Faith’ is the result of many years of field recording and sound manipulation. It’s a strange album, excelling in minimalism.
The best way to listen to ‘Faith’ is not to listen to each song individually but to see it as a whole. The tracks vary from a bit under one minute to about ten minutes. The oddest thing is, nothing really happens. In fact, to the untrained ear, this sounds like one long, prosy drone. Within the elaborate soundscapes, there is little variation, no percussion and no melodies. However, I deliberately avoid the word ‘boring’ because this is far from boring.
I admit, I had my doubts during the first few minutes of this album. Yet, this kind of music is not really to be just heard. This goes a lot deeper than most music does. It affects the brain and the body. The sounds resonate through the listener’s intestines and calms them down. I know because of how I feel after listening to this album. Before I played it, I didn’t feel so good. I ate (and drank) too much at a family reunion and my stomach was upset. However, two doses of ‘Faith’ and I’m feeling a lot better.
So yes, this is a class of music that many people will ignore, but those who know a great deal about ambient will realize that this is an excellent example of minimal experimental music. It also proves that we don’t fully understand the true power of sound, at least not yet. This goes way deeper than your eardrums and most of it doesn’t even enter your body there. (But don’t think about that for too long). This is minimal ambient at its best, period.
Here we may have a name that doesn’t immediately ring a bell, but Alvelos worked before under various guises, such as Autodigest, who once released a piece of music that consisted for an hour long of an audience clapping their hands, cheering, shouting (see Vital Weekly 456), which was called ‘A Compressed History Of Everything Ever Recorded, Volume 2: Ubiquitous Eternal Live’; Alvelos also worked as Antifluffy and Before Surgery, and has releases (I assume for either of these three) on Ash International, TouchRadio, The Tapeworm and Cronica Electronica. But now he works under his given name, as he says that this new piece is autobiographical and that the sounds were gathered since 1972; the last piece from ‘Faith’ is all about that, and all of these pieces are linked together. No sound sources are mentioned, just that it is ‘sourced and produced from field recordings and audio irregularities, 1972-2013’. Whatever these field recordings are, there are not your usual rain, wind or bird recordings. Just what it is that I hear is very hard to say. My best guess is that we are dealing here with something that is either highly processed or that the nature of these field recordings is of such that Alvelos has an extended library of sounds from motors, ventilations, shafts and such like. He applies some very heavy equalisation to these recordings in order to bring out some of the darker and deeper frequencies found in this material. Only in ‘The Hopeful Night’, the one before last piece, we hear the chirping of insects and ‘Dedication’, the final piece is a short bit of captured conversation, just as ‘Vicarious Solace’, in the middle sounds like a bit of an answerphone. Otherwise everything around here is very dark and quite spooky. One doesn’t know what exactly Alvelos is hinting at but that’s the (sound-) poetry of it all. I was reminded at times of the utter minimalism of Michael von Hauswolff, as Alvelos seemed to posses similar qualities. Excellent record! [FdW]
Other Music (USA):
Long-time Touch associate Heitor Alvelos steps into the producer role with a compilation of work sourced from field recordings that span 1972 to 2013. The 11 pieces are more on the meditative side, yet their brevity doesn’t let you zone out for too long, with the variance of textures and sounds keeping things interesting. Like the photography he has contributed to releases by Biosphere, Rafael Toral, and others for Touch, his sound work is a study of the minimal textural beauty found in various environments.
Black Audio (net):
This is Alvelos’ debut full length release after many a collaboration with label mates aplenty. Many of the sound sources have been collected through five decades; and now as a collection of treated field recordings Heitor has deemed them worthy of release.
Broken into twelve individual tracks, ‘Faith’ seamlessly flows as one long piece with varying degrees of tones and rolling air, forced out in ambient fashion. For the most part the change in pitch works well and slides well into the drone genre with ease.
Don’t expect any stop-starts, don’t expect to be blown away; however do expect to be drawn into a foreboding and sometimes oppressive display of bleak sub consciousness, where time dissolves as the varying degree of hums and sonic throbs swell around your ears.
The Touch label for the most part, has released its fair share of albums that could easily be categorised under the Dark Ambient banner; I just don’t think they really are aware of the wider genre. In that respect, some of the best DA releases I have heard have come from the label, with minimal efforts to reach out to that scene. You can stick ‘Faith’ in that pot as well. 8.5/10
Norman Records (UK):
Heitor Alvelos at last steps up from providing visual accompaniment to / theorising about music to produce his own material, bringing out a full length album on the aesthetically superb Touch. Faith is a highly personal release, processing a wide range of sonic content into new and powerful shapes. A very intense set.
Curateur et chercheur dans le domaine des médias, Heitor Alvelos a aussi un travail musical personnel que ce soit sous les pseudos Autodigest, Antifluffy ou Before Surgery, ou ici sousson propre nom. À partir de traitements d’enregistrements extérieurs, ‘Faith’ agit comme un voile sur une réalité disparue. C’est un grondement lointain et profond d’où surgit un espoir final comme une délivrance.
Nova Express (France):
Quel son! on se croirait sur un bateau, un gros. Il ne manque que les vibrations quoique en mettant assez fort… mmhh les voisins risquent de ne pas apprécier… Non non un vaisseau spatial n’est pas en train de se poser dans votre jardin.
Autor de inúmeros projectos, em diversas áreas, Heitor Alvelos edita pela primeira vez em seu nome, um álbum na Touch, uma editora (não apenas discográfica, como fazem sempre questão de salientar) com quem colabora, directa e indirectamente, há cerca de 15 anos. Ilustração, fotografia, imagens, sons, mas, sobretudo, ideias, muitas, porque Heitor parece ter um jeito inato para as criar, desenvolver e, depois, oferecer-nos. Sobre as imagens, talvez seja importante pesquisarem o espólio da Touch, por exemplo, e perceberem que nem tudo virá da lente de Jon Wozencroft. Sobre os sons, pensem em Autodigest ou, recentemente, em Antifluffy, e num currículo profissional teórico/prático que tem feito pela cena digital e media alternativa como poucos – no nosso país e nos quatro cantos do mundo. Tal como tem feito em trabalhos anteriores, a música em “Faith” parece processar o seu mundo, os seus sentidos, numa compressão de sons e atmosferas que recuperam uma espécie de big bang pessoal mas transmissível. Feito em partes mas digerido como um imenso drone visceral, Heitor Alvelos refere que utilizou sons gravados desde 1972, impondo uma direcção quase autobiográfica a este trabalho. Mas, como também diz, irá ressoar (material e imaterialmente) em todos nós. Nós confirmamos.
Sonic Seducer (Germany):
Neben Touch-grunder Jon Wozencroft hat Heitor Alvelos das visuelle Erscheinungsbild des Labels und die Liveautfritte der dort beheimateten Kunstler entscheidend gepragt. Als Soundkunstler trat er in der Vergangenheit u.a. unter den Namen Autodigest, Antifluffy und Before Surgery in Erscheinung.
“Faith” ist die erste Tontragerveroffentlichung unter seinem burgerlichen Namen. Grund hierfur ist der autobiografische Charakter des Albums. Alvelos verwendete Field-Recordings aus den letzten funfzig Jahren, der Grad der Bearbeitung schwankt dabei sehr stark, fuhrt jedoch night zu horbaren Brichen in der Summe. Die tieffrequente und maschinenhafte Klangcharacteristik, die sich durch weite Teile von “Faith” zieht, kann bei entsprechender Wiedergabelautstarke zu spurbaren korperlichen Reaktionen fuhren. Danach wirkt das abschliessende Zirpen der Hauselektrik im direkten Vergleich beinahe erholsam.
Blow Up (Italy):
Hij is al eeuwen zicht- en hoorbaar bezig en pas na al die tijd produceert hij een debuutlangspeler onder zijn eigen naam: Heitor Alvelos flikt het met Faith. Let wel: hij is geen kortademig ADHD’ertje dat nooit iets afmaakt. De beste man verzorgde visuals voor liveshows van onder anderen BJNilsen, Biosphere en Fennesz, hij tekende voor releases onder artiestennamen als Antifluffy, Autodigest en Before Surgery en levert ook nog hoesontwerpen. Een bezige man dus, die daarnaast als curator optreedt en zijn eigen naam gewoon nog niet eerder gebruikte voor een geluidsrelease. Daar heeft hij een goede reden voor, want het werkstuk is naar eigen zeggen autobiografisch van aard.
Je persoonlijke verhaal vertellen en ervoor zorgen dat het ook nog een snaar raakt bij een ander is niet per se iedereen gegeven. Alvelos maakt het makkelijk en moeilijk tegelijk. Hij levert lastig doordringbare en vrij statische drones met lichte noise. Abstractie wordt tot in het extreme doorgevoerd, maar dat mag nauwelijks een verrassing heten voor wie ‘s mans eerdere audiowerken kent. Eenvoudiger – en ook doeltreffend – zijn de tonen die Alvelos levert: op maat gesneden om je organen op een andere plek in je lijf te laten belanden. Daar rammelt en klotst het flink door pulserende en – meer nog – verschuivende basgolven.
Het bronmateriaal aan fieldrecordings verzamelde Alvelos over een periode van vijf decennia. Het is aan zijn conceptuele focus te danken – die steevast ijzersterk uitgewerkt wordt op de hele plaat maar ook in de rest van zijn oeuvre – dat Faith een rotsvaste kern en massieve coherentie kent. De stroperige klanken duiken onderhuids. Daar woelen de bleke, poëtische schemeringen als onder hoge druk rond op een manier die liefhebbers van Mika Vainio of Zbignieuw Karkowski tot vreugdesprongetjes zal aanzetten. Ook het monolithische karakter is trouwens niet mis te verstaan voor menig Sunn o)))-adept. [Sven Schlijper]
The Wire (UK):
Bad Alchemy (Germany):
CHAIN D.L.K. (USA):
The first interesting aspect of this release by Portuguese media researcher as well as longtime Touch collaborator – he provided stage visuals and photograpy for Fennesz, Biosphere, Rafael Toral, Philip Jeck and BJNilsen – Heitor Alvelos, who decided to sign it by its own name instead of one of his quite known aliases (Antifluffy, Autodigest) to highlight the fact it’s an autobiographical output, is the long time span – from 1972 to 2013 – during which the (more or less processed) field recordings got grabbed, so that I won’t wonder if he managed to grab some noises of his cradle by his parents as well. The second one is simply related to listening perception, as the way by which he manipulated frequencies show skills as well as that kind of aural intensity that could cause molecular or biochemical reactions into listeners or matter (electronic music lovers could understand that my opinion is not an excessively kowtowing overstatement…) that could be matched to experienced sound artists such as Mika Vainio or Alva Noto. Such an aspect is maybe the most relevant to listeners, as I guess it’s not easy to infer biographical details from the listening of white noises, deeply low buzzes or whatever Dr.Alvelos encapsulated in his twelve tracks, but I can surmise that sharing pages of his spiritual path or personal schedule, in spite of titles which could have some connection to religious matters (“Vicarious Solace”, “Peirasmos”, “The Way of Malamat” or “Exodus”), doesn’t belong to author’s purposes, as you can infer by his viewpoint on the relation between technology and personal freedom when asked about that during a recent interview, so that a certain indecipherability behind the listenable stuff seems to be intentionally reached. Besides my personal interpretation, have a check just for your listening pleasure.
Heitor Alvelos boasts an unconventional artistic background. A long-term collaborator with Touch, he has also designed and implemented stage visuals for Biosphere, Fennesz, BJNilsen, Rafael Toral and Philip Jeck, as well as producing sounds under the various monikers of Autodigest, Antifluffy and Before Surgery. Since 2008 Alvelos has also been the curator of FuturePlaces Media Lab for Citizenship. Faith, the first full length release conjured up by the eclectic artist, is in the same vain as many of his previous works; fascinating narratives, a wide cultural context and a comforting coherence. The cavernous sounds that unravel through the 12 sections of this album feel very organic and analogue. Irregular field recordings and drone-based music form a conceptually rigorous and powerful continuum. There is emphasis on low frequencies that evoke and spectral and ghostly landscape – the result of abstract audio captures the artist has collected since the early seventies. The processed elements are very sparse, grumbling and buzzing with modulated static and minimal variations. The charm of the work thus resides in the disparate sound sources, artfully undisclosed. The juxtapositions are well-calibrated and harmonically very engaging. Alvelos presents organized environments that are not always comfortable refuges for the listener. Indifference seems impossible with this highly evocative and abstract record and there is something operatic about the fervency of its richly pulsing drones. [Aurelio Cianciotta]
Revue et Corrigé (France):