candlesnuffer aka david brown

... you don't honestly expect me to slag this off ...

as candlesnuffer
LP, artist edition, 2021

DL, Room40, 2021

CD, Lexicon Devil, 2005

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Andy Hamilton, The Wire
Candlesnuffer's second release takes its name from the studio Pierre Henry founded in 1960, APSOME. Candlesnuffer's own moniker doesn't have an obvious origin, but it's the name used by David Brown, Melbourne-based guitarist, when he's in Derek Bailey + musique concrète mode. The album celebrates musique concrète and other 20th century composers - Pierre Henry, Bernard Parmegiani, Cage, Varèse, Takemitsu, and the film composers used by Kurosawa - and particularly their use of percussion instruments. Each of the eight pieces focuses on one or two composers, and minuscule fragments of their work were used to construct an "ensemble" sound on computer, which the guitarist then recorded himself improvising along with. The result is a vindication of Candlesnuffer's concern to match opposing concepts, notably high and low art, and electronic and acoustic music.

It's an intriguing release, which comes across like a juxtaposition of Bailey's shard-like guitar-playing and the rawest of musique concrète. In some ways the "ensemble" is a hi-fi version of Schaeffer's earliest experiments, which stubbornly resisted what he called the acousmatic, faithfully reflecting their causes - doors slamming, voices, water running, and so on. The lack of continuity which Brown insists on is baffling and disorienting at first, his brief flurries and explosive outbursts on guitar answered by the jagged sonic detritus that makes up the ensemble. But gradually the musical sense behind these fragmentary soundscapes becomes apparent. It's an intense, in your face listening experience, and as local composer Anthony Pateras avers in his sleevenotes, Brown creates a "visceral performance language that would make any supposed 'post' rocker shit their pants - and probably Boulez as well". As Pateras also says, Candlesnuffer is asking some of the right questions - and giving some of the right answers too, I reckon.

Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic
This follow-up to Candlesnuffer's eponymous debut on Dr Jim Records is David Brown's finest work to date, a striking collection of compositions in which the Australian guitarist pays homage to the founding fathers of musique concrete (the album title is a reference to Pierre Henry's Apsome Studio). As Brown's frequent playing partner Anthony Pateras notes in the liners, the music references "everything from the GRM to Japanese folk to Bartok to devastating death rock [..] a visceral performance language that would make any supposed 'post' rocker shit their pants - and probably Boulez as well." In the bad old good old days of razor blades and Scotch tape, a piece like the opening "Were holes mended?" would have taken weeks, nay months, of painstaking work in the studio - which is not to imply that Brown threw it together in an afternoon. Far from it: even with today's state-of-the-art software there's an enormous amount of patient sequencing involved here, as samples of the music of Henry, Cage, Ligeti, Takemitsu and Bartok are reconfigured into startling and startlingly coherent compositions over which Brown layers his own distinctively spiky guitar improvisations. It's a shame in a way that he's released this under the Candlesnuffer moniker (which those unfamiliar with the name could easily assume is some sort of Death Metal or grungy hardcore outfit - Brown is, for better or worse, perhaps best known as the bloke who started out as a member of AC/DC..), as it deserves to be just as widely circulated in the contemporary classical market served by labels such as Mode. Perhaps Pateras could put a good word in with John Zorn (Pateras's own Mutant Theatre after all came out on Tzadik) - Zorn maybe more than most could appreciate the brutal jump/cut aesthetic that Brown adopts here to such deadly effect. There are plenty of twists and turns in each of the eight tracks, and Brown's soundworld, with its Samurai shrieks (courtesy Kurosawa), vicious shards of guitar and skull-shattering percussion, is thrilling enough to keep you coming back again and again.

Bob Baker Fish, Cyclic Defrost
Candlesnuffer is a solo project for Dave Brown, bass player for Melbourne outfit Bucketrider, guitarist in Lazy, Western Grey and regular improviser around town such as his trio with Anthony Pateras and Sean Baxter. Over the years Brown has developed a keen interest in extending the sonic potential of his instrument, moving well beyond riffage into a world populated by strange textures and tones, in which he has utilised extended techniques in partnership with electronics to create new original sound worlds. At least partially improvised, Brown's pieces bubble, hiss, crash and clang, melding the absurd with the stupid, the painful with the gut churning, and the soothing with the surreal. Drawing upon elements of sound art and music concrete (the title stems from music concrete pioneer from Pierre Henry's studio), as well as cartoon music and experimental electronica, though possibly also rock, jazz and film soundtracks, in a much less tangible way, Candlesnuffer's second album is a rich, compositionally obtuse, though quite varied exploration of some truly incredible soundscapes. Film samples exist alongside, scratchy guitar, piercing drones, unexpected chordal strumming, percussive banging and jittery slightly amphibious feeling electronics.

François Couture, Allmusic
Apsomeophone is not the follow-up you would expect to David Brown's 2001 Candlesnuffer release. By all means a more disorienting album, it leaves more room to silence, opens up to a wider instrumentation, and challenges the listener on more levels than his solo debut. The booklet and tray card contain little information as to what is on the disc and how it was done. Brown is credited as the sole performer, but no instruments are specified. Besides the guitars, which still account for the majority of the sounds heard, there are trombones, percussion, turntables, samples, and electronics -- at least. With these sources, Brown builds complex, very dynamic electro-acoustic works. If Candlesnuffer proceeded from the noise scene, Apsomeophone is clearly rooted in musique concrète (as a form) and rock (for the electric guitar). "Were Holes Mended?" is the album's main course: ten minutes of fragmented sound events interspersed with silence. The piece is demanding on the listener, confusing and provocative. The seven shorter tracks that follow are denser, but still make use of a wide range of dynamics. They are also more immediately likable and, despite the complexity of their multiple layers, they project an image of careful organization. "Satan Wash," "Money's Dark Night," and "Voices of the Air Shaft 2" stand out as particularly clever and sonically rich. Fans of Bucketrider will find here an album that both explains the rigors of the group's then-latest opus (L'Événements) and dives deeper into abstraction. It requires a few listens before efforts can be rewarded, but it ultimately reveals an unusual composer. Fans of non-academic (or even academic) electro-acoustic music are advised to keep an ear on this guy.