Pan Left with James Hoff

How to process despotism & hypocrisy

Last week’s All-Notes-Off probed the recondite terra-scapes of Lee Gamble’s Pan arc. In light of the sightless impetus of militarized police departments witnessed during the Ferguson unrest, examining the work of James Hoff – another arm of label’s vanguard genius – pieces together a second angle of Pan’s multifaceted gravity.

In 2011, amidst the Occupy Movement, multidisciplinary artist Hoff contributed a colossal recording to “The Troubled Pastoral” art series. How Wheeling Feels When the Ground Walks Away diffuses like tear gas in its assemblage of field recordings covering four decades of historic riots, including a John Cage performance turned protest in Italy.

“Fucking Pigs,” the opening shout from the single-sided 12-inch, sets a strident tone before a sound collage of marching officers, car alarms, explosions, screams, megaphone chants, and shattering glass stockpile into a dissonant ensemble of anxiety and discordant mayhem.

I began revisiting How Wheeling Feels alongside the mounting police brutality manifested out of the Ferguson dismay. Like all Pan releases, label-head Bill Kouligas designed the art. His sanguinary typography sits atop a black & white photo of an officer dispersing lachrymator out of a space-age looking apparatus.

With the Pentagon trickling down billions of dollars worth of Iraq war-mongering equipment to municipal law enforcement agencies, the photograph is an eerie reminder of a half-century of escalating tensions due to the bloating expansion of the military industrial complex. As evinced by four decades of archival sounds, How Wheeling Feels provides a consequential framework, which exhibits incidents like Michael Brown’s murder as an ongoing cultural sequence rather than an aberration.

And let us not forget when APD shot Byron Carter Jr. to death in 2011 – ending unjustly with the acquittal of both officers involved.

In the aftermath of the Ferguson cataclysm, looking to our president remains a futile pursuit. His flaccid address to the nation refused to voice a critical debate over race relations and squandering funds to police both in and outside our borders. In absence of needed national dialogue and action, Hoff’s unyielding accretion of noise breeches these shut-out realities with visceral insight and historic forbearing.

On his second Pan long-player, Hoff turns from the streets to the web to unleash a virus infecting the programming on Roland’s definitive drum machine, the TR-808. Blaster superimposes the complexion of How Wheeling Feels with sheets of harrowing noise, yet in place of field-recordings, drum processing overtakes server synapses under a global stroke. It speaks volumes to the omnipresent transferal from the material world order to a network of hyper-connective wires and satellites.

If How Wheeling Feels articulates 50 years of strife and upheaval, Blaster updates the dystopic landscape with its trigger on the future. Often, in states of powerlessness, where authorities dismiss the detrimental truths of overhauled racist ideology and its influence on a law enforcement whose excessive force expels all notions to protect and to serve, critically abrasive work like James Hoff’s becomes the only mechanism to process the jarring despotism and hypocrisy.

More James Hoff
Lee Gamble’s Pan Arc
Lee Gamble’s Pan Arc
Nano noises across dizzying x, y and z axises

Conor Walker, Aug. 13, 2014

More by Conor Walker
Texas Platters
2845 (Record Review)

Sept. 9, 2016

Tonal Proximity
Tonal Proximity
The New Media Art & Sound Summit sees the Salvage Vanguard Theater out with a nonconformative bang

June 24, 2016


James Hoff, Pan, Lee Gamble, Bill Kouligas, John Cage, Michael Brown, Ferguson, Byron Carter Jr.

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