Published Mar 13, 2019In Bruce Nauman's 1985 video installation, Good Boy, Bad Boy, actors Joan Lancaster and Tucker Smallwood appear on separate looping monitors reciting lines like "I was a good boy / You were a good boy / We were good boys / That was good" and "I am an evil man / You are an evil man / We are evil men / This is evil," and "I piss / You piss / We piss / This is piss."
Recorded separately, as the pair read the 100-line script five times each, the speakers go in and out of phase with and contradict each other, and eventually, Smallwood's screen goes black, as he completes the exercise well before Lancaster.
Audio from the piece features prominently in the first moments of Rian Treanor's debut full-length, but instead of Smallwood's contributions, here, snippets of Lancaster's flat readings are paired with a scattered rhythm that punches up the landscape with mounting intensity.
It's a fitting entry point for Treanor, who's angular footwork-esque corruptions of IDM, techno, and garage challenged listeners on prior EPs for the likes of Warp's Arcola imprint and Boomkat sub-label Death of Rave before this release on Planet Mu. Nauman was encouraging viewers to interrogate "the connection between public and private experiences"; with ATAXIA, Treanor brings the conceptual exercise to the heightened sensory environment of a darkened rave, explicitly designing these experiments for club sound systems, confronting dance floor and listeners alike with competing patterns and rhythms.
The steep conceptual angle imposes a significant hurdle on casual listening, but Treanor rewards engagement with hypnotic, off-centred rhythmic cycles, and elements like the Nauman sample only represent a small portion of the runtime (Lancaster's assertions fall off before the two-minute mark).
The title ATAXIA literally refers to the loss of full control of bodily movements, and as dance music or installation art, ATAXIA works, infecting the body and tricking it into adapting a new rhythmic lexicon. (Planet Mu)