Peter Wright’s music is projected skywards – through his soundscapes of shattering feedback drones or layers of bowed guitars one gets in touch with the basics of listening in a series of communicating waiting rooms that constantly appear and disappear, reminding us that human experience should not be measured in terms of so-called spiritual values but by our ability to detect and reproduce colours in sounds or physical vibrations. Born in New Zealand, today based in London, Wright developed his strong musical personality in Christchurch, where he formed a multitude of bands to explore the ideas he would eventually fuse to mould his own magnificent work. Among these projects, many of them immortalized on cassettes for the kRkRkRk label, Bent Gastropod Omnibus and In Vitro contain the seed of the trademark Peter Wright sound: peculiarly-tuned chiming guitars, introspection, ambience and effects perfectly mixed with warped pop influences, plus a sort of acoustic darkness gradually replacing the music’s noisy genesis. Another band, Leonard Nimoy, which Wright described as a Michael Gira-influenced performance group to deeply shock audiences, better represented the more violent aspects of Wright’s early output. Coitus started out as an Industrial conception, yet Wright was already charting out a path towards what he calls “minimal, drifting instrumental music” on the cassette releases “Man In Blue Box” and “Man In Glass Cage”, whose re-reworked material would later see the light as Automaton on Wright’s own Apoplexy label. These and many other bands prepared the ground for the last decade, in which Wright’s skilful complexity affirmed itself with a vengeance. Since the 90s he has released a sizeable body of work under his own name, alone or with collaborators such as David Khan or Uton (the Birdsongs For Sewers CD with the latter, on Digitalis, contains some Wright’s best recent music) while keeping some of his unfinished/previously discarded work for his side project, Polio, where he recycles and digitally manipulates the most disparate sonic sources in a “diseased distillation” he calls “a reflection on my own association and subsequent dependence on technology”. “Collapse”, on Polio (Freedom From), brings together several Wright specialities: an almost imperceptible prayer consisting of phantom harmonic sibilance set against a backdrop of subsonic apprehension that progressively makes way for an avalanche of scraped and bowed electric guitars, ruling out any prospect of a tranquil existence. “Microtone” is the rumbling outcome of a work on microphone feedback whose continuously morphing shapes have devastating effects on the equilibrium. On other outings under his own name, Radioplay and Syncopate (both on Apoplexy), Wright includes shortwaves in his search for new horizons. If other recordings like Soyuz and Gemini (also on Apoplexy) are gripping in their dejected beauty, one of the highlights of the whole Polio project is “Sandblaster”, which opens the Concrete album (on Humbug) – listening to its silence, static frequencies, penetrating feedback loops, pulsating tremors and vacant lights is like looking at a distant city at night from a hilltop. Our deepest thoughts are carved in the grainy stone of lost memories.
The economy of means with which Wright produces such gorgeous immobile awareness is inversely proportional to the under-the-radar proliferation of his limited-quantity editions that, for the most part, sell out almost immediately. A comprehensive discography can be found on his website (www.distantbombs.com) and several of these discs deserve a spot in the sunlight. For starters, the aforementioned Automaton (Apoplexy) marks a decisive trait d’union between the “Industrial” influences (“A Stone Blanket”) and a shamanic flow of electricity that finds its force in spirals of unquiet twirls bathed in rusty agitation where voices as evil spirits (“Screaming Skulls”) and pre-explosion piano monotony (“Terminus II”) surround the listener with menace. It’s fractured, low-budget musique concrète, but its effect on the nervous system is often quite destabilizing. Duna (on Last Visible Dog) alternates bagpipe-sounding strata of chordal dissonance and tense vibration of adjacent tones with the furiously distorted, 31-minute long “Without A Second Thought He Turned His Back To The People And Painted The Wall”, while The Broken Kawai (Pseudoarcana) cross-pollinates pure noise experimentation with a spicy acousmatic sauce – source sounds include bicycle parts and clarinet – with impressive oleaginous patches extending ad infinitum over multi-frequency feedback, drones finally succumbing to nervous silence. The final “Roulette” bears the sacral character of a church organ’s reverberating overtones, and yet it’s just a fantastic overlapping of guitar infinity, a work whose detailed sounds and immaculate wholeness put it in a class by itself among Wright’s many marvels. Red Lion (Tour Edition) is a collection of gradual detours to contagious droning bliss in which Wright smothers the flames of a perennial anguish with reverberating zinging strings and the environmental consonance of faraway planes. This is one of Wright’s strongest works, along with his two releases on Celebrate Psi Phenomenon, A Tiny Camp In The Wilderness and Catch A Spear As It Flies, the latter featuring characteristically enthralling murals of relentless guitar vibration and found sounds in a music that releases its enormous harmonic power little by little, in a slowly uncoiling ceremonial. On the same level is Desolation, Beauty, Violence (Digitalis), composed on a 12-string Danelectro plus “minimal effects and field recordings”; the fixed vibrational purr of the astounding “Adrift at 30,000 ft” manages to be down-to-earth and celestially radiant at one and the same time. “Kashmir” translates the sound of the Danelectro into myriad sitars, while “Evening at Ben Ohay” is one of the most intense static compositions you’re likely to hear. Maybe the most involuntarily “devotional” record by Peter, Desolation, Beauty, Violence could be the perfect starting point to penetrate the tortuous, sublime underworld of this gifted, hyperactive yet still virtually unknown master painter.