Brand first became entranced by ratchets – a percussive instrument/warning device that generates clicking sounds – when he discovered the extraordinarily loud high-density sound they make when played in unison with their gearwheels turning at high speeds.The original performances and the new work – a vinyl recording of a ratchet concert performed in 2021 – are indeed similar in many ways. Yet what we find most striking, happily, are their differences.
The new recording remains as perplexing as ever: not only does the analogue sound of the ratchets, made up of an infinite density of high-speed clicks, somehow manage to sound typically electronic, but the sounds they generate can be heard without speakers, yielding a result that resembles electronic music but has been produced in a far less contrived and more natural way.
Another difference is that Brand has put together – for the other side of the record – a new series of drone pieces made with motors that resemble those he uses for the ratchets. When the motors start up they produce a pulse, which is made audible by the coil in the motor and can be controlled with considerable precision. The first and third drone works start with the last four notes of pieces of music by Duke Ellington and Henry Purcell respectively, while the second uses sounds from the motors. The pieces alternate between harsh and dulcet tones and elegiac melodies, exhibiting considerable variation.