JACK PREST, the Australian soundscaper, is perhaps best known for his work on the other side of the plexiglass as an engineer and producer at Sydney’s Studios 301, nine decades of recording absolutely according it legendary status. Best known, for now. That looks like it really could be about to change; lovers of the blissful, the generative, the retrotronic, if you would be so kind as to come inside?
Jack’s been behind the faders and involved in the final realisation of work by the meditative guitarist Godtet, the leftfield hiphop of Stones Throw artist Jonti, the dark breaks textures of Kcin, and many others in his position as senior engineer at 301; hell, he’s even had compositions feature in performance pieces at Sydney Opera House.
But it’s time we heard from the man himself, moving from the final sonic execution of the work of others to draw us inside his vision of sound. We should be grateful, tbh; it’s a good place.
Tomorrow he’s to unveil his Test Tones on us, which collates together seven works of experimental computer ambience, cusping womb music, drone, retro-Moog exploration, even New Age primitivism of the sort compiled by Soul Jazz Records on its recent compilation, Space, Energy and Light: Experimental Electronic and Acoustic Soundscapes 1961-88.
Jack says that his “ambient, new age and experimental electronic music [combines with] with hypnotic visuals to create an experience akin to deep meditation or psychedelic awakenings.”
The project began in 2017 with the release of an iPhone artwork app of the same name; intended as an aesthetic alternative to social media scrolling, by deploying the app the user could swipe between various patterns while listening to a specially created soundtrack. The app is currently in redevelopment and will relaunch later this year.
Much of the work on the Test Tones EP is improvised in a stream of consciousness; going with the sonic flow, trusting that sonic river-run, capturing the shine of the bright and the new quickly.
The EP – and we’re lucky enough to be premiering a brace of tracks from the seven here today, “Test Tone IV” and “Test Tone VII”, to which you can listen below – is a first gathering together of these works for the wider ear, and presents as a suite of crackingly amniotic, primal soundscapes, harking back to the days of white lab coats and clipboards electronic sound experimentation; think Pierre Henry, Mort Garson, Charles Wuorinen and drawing a sightline right up to the now through the analogue ambient warmth of Kranky’s Loscil, and Sonic Boom.
Some tracks seem to emit through eons of space-time, transmitting in a half-life somewhere on longwave just long enough to be captured for posterity; others seem to have bubbled upward from the deep ocean trenches, so aquatic and immersive are they; yet others are barely there at all, the ghost of a sound that admits to your surrounding, circumstantial ambience that makes you chase in through the looking glass in pursuit of it.
“IV” has some vocal harmonic colour at several removes in the bliss, breathy and graceful from beyond the bounds of our lives, an almost-rain of texture hidden inside; clarion calls with frayed, distorted edges ring clear as a subtle propulsion builds. “VII” has a drone somnolence, pulsing gently and biorhythmically, all the while a bell motif cycling in a zero-gravity chamber of echo; it’ll stir you from your dreams in the precipitous sonics of its conclusion.
The EP will be accompanied by a series of eight video works made during 2017, all of which pair one of the audio Test Tones in visual oscillation using a digital video synth; these’ll follow in coming weeks.
Jack will also play an audio-visual show to launch the Test Tones EP at the People’s Republic in Camperdown, Sydney, on June 17th, with support from The Die Youngs and Chloe Kim. If you’re Down Under, that’ll be the kind of show to slip inside and witness.
Jack Prest’s Test Tones will be available digitally and on extremely limited cassette (50 only) from May 20th; you can ensure you get your copy over at his Bandcamp page right now. Really, do.