In some of my earliest days in college radio, in the few years between my getting sick of every goddamn band sounding like R.E.M. and being re-invigorated by rock via Amphetamine Reptile, I and a few other anarchy-minded graveyard shift DJs liked to perform what someone had dubbed “destructions” (possibly after Knížák): two or more of us would patch the production studio into the air signal, doubling the number of reel-to-reel decks and turntables available to us, and we’d then improvise hours-long musique concret pieces with tape loops, prepared vinyl, and any other sound sources we could conjure up. It involved a lot of intensive listening, and real foreknowledge of our source materials, because we didn’t want the pieces to be just a bunch of bullshit noise, though of course sometimes they were anyway.
We fancied ourselves teenaged Christian Marclays, and with a major midwestern university covering the cost of replacing the needles we were savaging, we prepped thrift-store vinyl by drilling off-center spindle holes, cutting records in half and re-attaching them randomly, and strategically blocking off grooves with masking tape or glue to create intentional skips and loops. While the music we made wasn’t the sort of thing most “normals” would care to listen to, it was 3 in the damn morning, so who cared? We were teaching ourselves to break down categorical restrictions and to think of music in uncommonly physical terms!!!
And we would have given anything to have been even half as cool as Vinyl Terror and Horror are today.
VT&H are the Berlin-based Danish duo Camilla Sørensen and Greta Christensen. Their vinyl art incorporates innovations like multi-tiered turntables, upside-down tone arms and the use of precision cutting devices to make literal jigsaw puzzles out of records. They even deploy robotics. The pair related the history of the project to Thump UK:
Sørensen and Christensen met at Copenhagen’s Royal Danish Art Academy in 2001 while studying sculpture, and decided to collaborate on a series of soundscapes. After exploring a shared interest in Hammond organs, they decided that there was little interest in learning how to play a traditional instrument. Using vinyl was convenient as it was readily available from Copenhagen’s charity shops, and interesting as a sculptural item. “In a very sculptural sense, the sound is directly connected to the material alongside the recorded material, which has its own time and its own history,” Christensen says. “The record as an object that you can work with very directly and manipulate. We turn it into something new.”
After relocating to Berlin in 2003, the duo began performing and came upon their moniker by accident. “At a flyer for one of the shows,” Sørensen relates, “we saw a description written underneath our names of what we do: vinyl terror. We added the horror just because we were two – so one could be the terror and one could be the horror.” I press them: which member is the terror and which is the horror? They pause and think carefully over their response, before deciding that there is a bit of both in each of them.
This appears to be the modus operandi of the Vinyl Terror and Horror project – to bring out the unsettling side of record playing by turning the audio format into a living wreck. Christensen admits that this is all done with the aim of a narrative purpose: “It’s a project based on disasters. The sound is about creating disasters.” Alongside Sørensen, she finds discount recordings of operas, classical music and sets about distorting their forms for storytelling purposes.