|die Reihe + Jon Myers & Madalyn Merkey + DunkelPek|
From a review of “Housed” on Thump
NNA Tapes presents “Housed”, the latest work from die Reihe, the project of New York City-based sound artist and engineer Jack Callahan. After years of experimenting with electronic music, composition, and modular systems, the recent work of die Reihe has found Callahan operating on the outermost extremes of conceptual art, the avant garde, and minimalism. Crafting a unique style over the years through a series of live performances and releases on labels such as Ascetic House, Jeff Witscher’s Salon, and his own Bánh Mì Verlag imprint, Callahan has more recently distilled his approach to composition by holding a microscope to various genres of music and focusing on a single element within them. On “Housed”, Callahan turns his lens to this classic style of dance music and investigates one often overlooked component - the chords.
Using his personal knowledge of and passion for House music, Callahan has extracted the chords from over 250 classic House tracks by 150+ artists, and used them as the building blocks for composition, much like his dissection of Trap music drum fills on his “Trap Studies” cassette (Anòmia, 2015). These rhythmless chords, which range from quick synth stabs, pulsing bass swells, jazzy piano notes, and warm electronic melodies, take on new life when separated from their beat-laden former bodies. Typically used for live DJ mixing to create overlapping seamless segues between tracks, these chords are rarely heard on their own in a club context, and are now liberated by die Reihe to exist as sound alone without being tied to the function of rhythm inherent in dance music.
As opposed to the more expected approach of using these chords as the raw source material to be manipulated with digital processing, effects, or layering, die Reihe opts out of personal artistic expression and instead assumes the role of “Organizer”, presenting the sounds raw and as-is, in two arbitrary seamless combinations: randomized (Side A), and shortest to longest (Side B). This approach relates in some ways to Cage’s systems of Chance operations, as well as to Kenneth Goldsmith’s ideas on “Uncreativity”, or to more Dadaist procedures such as Assemblage or Duchamp’s “Readymade” works. By keeping the artist’s hand very light and recontextualizing the sounds within music from a highly conceptual standpoint, die Reihe is able to transform the dimly lit kinetic energy of a dance club into the stark white walls of a gallery.