grunt

by Derek Piotr

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about

“equipped with all of the hypnotic powers of its contemporaries” -PopMatters

“intricately constructed and frequently jarring” -Cyclic Defrost

“at once brutal and engrossing” -XLR8R

“altogether a short but powerful album” -Vital Weekly

A grunt. That most primal and animalistic of utterances. The new project by Derek Piotr, his eighth solo record and a set of short-form brutalist shards of human-digital noise, is named for this sound.

Had Xenakis bought a laptop in 1999, he may have produced something comparable to Grunt and its posthuman #voicenoise aesthetic. Yet this is a wholly unique piece of work. As with Xenakis, Piotr takes recognisably analogue sounds – particularly the voice, but also drawing on acoustic instrumentation and found-sounds from nature – and reconstructs them into 21 intricate ‘electroacoustic’ miniatures. Yet Piotr is less interested in dissolving these boundaries between electric and acoustic than he is in hybridising the organic and the digital. Grunt is subversively queer in its posthuman composition.

While there is an undoubted extension of the pulsing soundscapes introduced on 2016’s Drono, the excited percussive joy that drove 2017’s Forest People Pop is present here too. These pieces do not drift or unfold gently, as on Drono. Instead, they animate, collapse and morph incessantly, their shifting mechanics on full display, evoking Dada sculpture or surrealist cinema. With the exception of the final track, a reworked version of ‘Redirect’ by the legendary Kevin Drumm, every piece on Grunt (mastered by the brilliant Stephan Mathieu) is under three minutes in length – amplifying their jarring sonic distinctions.

Opening track ‘Voice II’ is a violent introduction, splinters of vocals distorted beyond all recognition barking at the listener, before descending into a calming hum. It is followed by the busier ‘DZ’, which can only be described as a choir of malfunctioning robots harmonising over the thunder of a pneumatic drill. ‘Violin I’ and ‘Violin II’ reprocess the titular classical instrument into something industrial, even Lynchian. ‘Ants’ is mesmerising; a sonic microscope trained on a bustling digital jungle. The original version of ‘Redirect’ sounds like magnified liposuction in a hectic printing press. As the album nears its end, ‘Pure’ provides a welcome return to the gorgeous vocal manipulations of Forest People Pop. The constant metamorphosis should be exhausting, but the intricacy of the compositions keeps the album endlessly entertaining and fascinating. The title track, the album’s most powerful statement, substitutes the vocals/instruments/found-sounds of the other pieces for the aggressively juddering vibrations of a Fort Troff Raw Pup, a queer sex toy, highlighting the transgressive identity politics of Grunt’s animal-digital hybrid.

Donna Haraway championed the potential disruption to hegemonic patriarchy enabled by a cyborgian fusion of human and machine. On Grunt, Piotr’s posthuman contraptions and hyper-sexualised queer cultural references blur the boundaries between the organicity of the human voice and the synthetisation of the digital. Translated from Piotr’s native Polish, ‘grunt’ means ‘earth’/‘ground’. This, alongside its association with primitive enunciations, makes Grunt a fitting title for the uncharted hinterlands of bio-digital sound the artist has birthed here: new worlds both organic and cybernetic that celebrate the nuances of non-heteronormative identity.

-Text by Dr. Michael Waugh

credits

released September 28, 2018

composed, produced + performed by derek piotr
tracks 05, 12, 15: violin by jason boada
track 21: buchla, piano + remix by kevin drumm
mastered by stephan mathieu
cover image by johann baron lanteigne

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about

Derek Piotr

Poland-born producer/vocalist based in New England, whose work focuses mainly on sampling the human voice.

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