Turkish-American composer and violinist Ali Can Puskulcu releases his debut album "Gibberish Shreds," a series of compositions for violin, voice, and processed electronics using a midi pedal and featuring his dynamic solo performances. Puskulcu spins his fascination with nonsensical sounds into a collection that merges kinetic intensity with a keen sense of structural and textural shaping.
In his series “Gibberish Shreds,” Turkish-American composer and violinist Ali Can Puskulcu uses fragments of quasi-language in combination with extended techniques on violin and live processing to create hyperactive material that marries a deft sense for building cohesive layered textures with a flair for the absurd. The five works heard here share a vocabulary assembled from granular gestures but are contrasting in other striking ways.
Volume I, which opens the program, is a recording of the live premiere of the piece, and as such is a pure representation of Puskulcu’s mastery over the diverse sounds available from his onstage set up. For the first several minutes of the work, Ali alternates between a torrent of nonsense syllables with cascading downward vocal glissandi and a spatialized chorus of comically disconcerting guttural and snorting sounds. Subsequent sections fixate on swirling loops that are panned around the stereo field and disembodied, creating ethereal pads of sound. While the moment to moment texture often relies on delayed reiterations of introduced material, Puskulcu evades the pitfalls of many layered loop pieces by navigating the larger scale texture through several sections of contrasting levels of density.
Volume II starts similarly, but quickly features a more prominent melodic role for the violin, with vigorous arpeggiated and accordion-like chordal textures subjected to delays. Puskulcu’s approach to text shifts momentarily midway through this volume, with complete words spoken in varying volumes over an unsettling background. The arpeggiated textures of the opening bloom briefly into a tintinnabulating chorus before focusing back on a single, increasingly disfigured violin sound. Processing overwhelms the acoustic sound of the instrument for a dramatic close.Read More
Puskulcu writes, “Volumes III through V contain significant amounts of pre-recorded tracks and samples, and the contrapuntal relationship between the live sounds and the pre-recorded tracks plays an important role.” Volume III features more extensive pitch material, including an expansive chordal section, a scat-like vocal solo over pre-recorded gongs, and a close to the piece that evokes the discordant sounds of distant foghorns.
Volume IV stands in stark contrast to the articulate sounds of the other works in the series. It is dominated by ambient windscape sounds that ascend in register and intensity over several minutes. Towards the middle of the work, gull-like gibberish sounds mix with incantations to produce a haunting effect.
The opening of Volume V seems to place the listener inside an arcade or casino, with percolating electronic sounds mixed with Puskulcu’s rich vocabulary of vocal effects. An ethereal chordal section reminiscent of the material in Volume III washes over the texture, is pulled apart into small bits, and remerges before a final closing gesture of static.Volume V is a perfect coda for the set, a distillation of Puskulcu’s approach and techniques into three and a half minutes, but one that also points forward towards some new aesthetic territory.
“Gibberish Shreds” is an ambitious effort by an artist who is adept at mining the possibilities of his performance forces as a solo artist. The trajectory of the five works in the series goes beyond the initial impulse of the project in Volume I to craft an idiosyncratic album length piece whose shape and scope consistently pushes the boundaries of what is possible from a solo set.
– Dan Lippel
Volume I recorded live by Adam Borecki in Ramo Hall, Los Angeles
Volume II-V recorded by Ali Can Puskulcu at his home studio in NYC
Photos: Steven Pisano
Design: Marc Wolf (marcjwolf.com)
Turkish-American composer and violinist Ali Can Puskulcu recently performed his violin piece “Gibberish Shreds Vol. 1” at the MATA Festival in New York City. His chamber music piece “Wired” was premiered by wild-Up ensemble at Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Noon to Midnight series in Walt Disney Hall. He has also received the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award for his ensemble piece “Broken,” and as a chosen composer, he performed his solo violin piece “Point G” at Lincoln Center in New York City. Additional performances took place at Gaudeamus Muzikweek (Netherlands), Saint- Martin-Vésubie (France), Rutgers University, and the University of Southern California. In 2007, Ali entered the Robert Schumann Musikhochschule in Dusseldorf, Germany under the instruction of Professor Ida Bieler. In 2010 he was invited to the renowned Schwetzingen Festspiele as a guest artist to perform music by contemporary Turkish composers. In July 2012, Ali graduated from the violin class of distinguished pedagogue Rosa Fain. He holds both a Bachelor and Master of Arts Diploma from the Robert Schumann Musikhochschule. In March 2013, Ali made his Carnegie Hall debut as the Second Prize Winner of the American Protégé Strings and Piano Competition. He was the winner of Ereprijs Commission at YCM 2017, and wrote a new piece for Orkest de Ereprijs, which was premiered in March 2018. Ali completed his Master of Music in music composition at the University of Southern California under the guidance of Andrew Norman and Donald Crockett.
A Turkish-American artist with a penchant for violin, voice, electronics and adventurousness, Ali Can Puskulcu pulls off a very atypical debut solo album, where intensity, texturing and structure are all manipulated in his inimitable vision.
“Volume I” starts the listen vocally strong- even bizarre- as wordless voice inflections are both imaginative and unexplainable, as the energetic and swift violin enters 2 minutes in alongside an even more experimental landscape of vocal pitches.
“Volume II” follows, and somehow is even more unusual, as actual words enter the more melodic approach of the violin, and “Volume III” continues with plenty of pre-recorded tracks and samples as vocal scatting and gongs are part of the handling of mood.
The final 2 tracks, “Volume IV” and “Volume V”, shift about in tone, as the former is a darker, futuristic and haunting display, while the latter seems like it’s stuck inside a video game in another dimension with its endless vocal effects and cultivating of an entirely new set of aesthetics.
Somewhere between performance art, avant-garde noise and brilliant gesturing that no one else is going to replicate, Gibberish Shreds is an unclassifiable journey you’re going to be in awe of.
— Tom Haugen, 4.06.2021