A luminary from the West Coast of the United States, Carl Stone has, in more or less recent times, been the subject of an unearthing of relative obscurity thanks to the continued efforts of the valiant Unseen Worlds. With his craft dating back to the late 60’s when he formed a band with the late Z’EV that auditioned for Frank Zappa’s Bizarre Records but left no memory, he joined the highly regarded California Institute of Arts where he studied under Morton Subotnik and James Tenney. A mentor of weight that would decisively influence Stone’s language in the fields of electronics and electro-acoustics.
Working during the 70’s very much in the shelter of the Academy, resorting to collage and the use of turntables as primary means, it is in the following decade that he definitely integrates the computer in his action, being, still today, the primordial “instrument” for his compositions. He also begins a perennial fascination with the Asian continent, which is factually formalised through various residencies and collaborations with Asian artists such as Min Xiao-Fen or Otomo Yoshihide, but also in the pure and reverent adoption of scales and resonances outside the European canon. And also in the practice of naming his pieces after his favourite restaurants, almost always Asian.
Woe Lae Oak, a piece commissioned by CalArts in 1981 and recorded for posterity in 1983, leaves that fixation clear throughout a deliberate and patient hour of strings and flute in a luminous drone. Revealing a serenity and humanism very much his own, Stone’s music deals with a certain minimalism through repetition and auditory hallucination, at the same time as it overflows it by resorting to the appropriation and recontextualisation of other’s material, in a strategy of benign sabotage that mirrors hip-hop sampling or plunderphonics piracy. Grandmaster Flash and John Oswald were never that far apart, after all.
Operating continuously over the following decades without much fanfare, dropping at a slow pace works like the hypnotic Four Pieces or the rhythmic collages compiled on Kamiya Bar, in addition to collaborations with the likes of cornetist Alfred Harth or Tetsu Inoue, got a new lease of life and due recognition with the release of Electronic Music From the Seventies and Eighties in 2016 and Electronic Music from the Eighties and Nighties in 2018 by Unseen World, where superlative material from that fertile period was rescued from the shadows. Since then, and with the support of that same label – responsible for marvels by Laurie Spigel or “Blue” Gene Tyranny – he has proved tireless, recording and releasing at a frank pace with no drop to self-contemplation. With an unusual pertinence and vitality for a 70 year old, Stone reveals a panoramic vision in a liminal space between the intangible and the recognisable, using samples of Asian folk, j-pop, afrobeat and everything else in a game of mirrors that is as much transfigured in the terrorist drill’n’bass of Stolen Car as in the very playful sampledelia bouncy of Wat Dong Moon Lek. All incredible. We would even say obligatory. Just like this passage of his. Believe it. BS