Cyrus Pireh and Alan Courtis turn wine into sound


  • Megan Krausch
  • Cyrus Pireh

Most of the music I share in my weekly 12 O'Clock Track posts has a certain poplike concision, even when it's far from pop. I appreciate work that's intensely focused, without wasted notes or gestures. But I also love music that's wide open and takes its time getting to its destination—or in the case of today's post, that never has a destination. Coils on Malbec (Shinkoyo) is a slow-moving experiment conducted by Argentine musician Alan Courtis (perhaps best known from his membership in the long-running Reynols) and Chicago-area native Cyrus Pireh (who lives in Duluth, Minnesota). Together they've created two patiently flowing, abstract sound works that slither between ambience and noise.

The duo decided to highlight the silent electromagnetic vibrations that surround us everyday by translating them into sound in an unusual way. In a Buenos Aires recording studio they fed vibrations captured with transformers, guitar pickups, and inductor coils into amplifiers placed on a table; they then poured wine (the Argentine varietal Malbec—hence the title) on the tabletop and created additional interferences with lighting and ambient sounds, including an FM radio. In essence they used the wine as a circuit to trigger the metal inductor coils, which served as the ultimate sound source on the recording. The duo then spent a year manipulating that raw material into the two loosely structured works on the album, the first of which is today's 12 O'Clock Track
Pireh performs solo Wednesday evening at Elastic, adapting the approach for a live setting. His output on a custom-made nine-string Stratocaster is split—one signal goes into a guitar amp, while the other goes into a connection dipped into a dish of wine (may I suggest a Spanish Grenache?) that functions as a circuit and feeds a second amplifier. It sounds complicated, and I'm still getting my head around the process, but the results are clear as day.

Today's playlist:

Klaus Filip & Leonel Kaplan, Tocando Fondo (Another Timbre)
Guus Janssen & His Orchestra, Dancing Series (Geestgronden)
Nate Wooley & Ken Vandermark, East by Northwest (Pleasure of the Text/Audiographic)
Éliane Radigue, L'île Re-Sonante (Shiin)
Various artists, Kashmir: Traditional Songs & Dances (Nonesuch)

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