Yann Novak – 3 Surfaces (Reductive)


In a heartwarming act of filial allegience, six years ago Yann Novak resuscitated the dormant Dragon´s Eye Recording label founded by his father in 1989 as the audio-visual arm of his small literary house, turning it in the process into a showcase for experimental minimalism and installation music. Initially dominated by his own work, it soon expanded to include a hand-picked roster of like-minded international talents.

Dragon´s Eye Recordings quickly garnered critical acclaim and among its nearly sixty editions, standout works like Jamie Drouin´s A Three Month Warm Up, On the Other Side… (For L. Cohen) by Clinker and Celer´s Breeze of Roses were made available to a wider audience than they might otherwise have reached. As the new year dawned, Novak temporarily deactivated the label to concentrate on his exhibition and performance art. Appropriately, this twenty-minute disc, his debut on Spanish ”sound souvenir” imprint Reductive, has been exerpted from an exhibt.

Too many people mistake surface for superficiality in the sense of lacking meaning due to literal lack of depth, but as far back as Robert Rauschenberg´s white-on-white paintings of the early 1950s, modernists have disabused this belief – John Cage called them ”landing strips for dust, light and shadow”. Novak´s 3 Surfaces is loyal to this traditon, exploring the play of light on surface and hence mood by adjusting the dimensions and natural lighting of his site – a humble stairwell in the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena – with fabric-covered scrims. The physical edition even includes a swatch.

Adding ”compositional elements” more suitable to home listening, Novak transmits the dry, shimmering heat, complete with subtle rattlesnake hiss, of his Californian surroundings, while a peculiar synaesthesia somehow sees powder blues shifting into pinks with the occasional surge of yellow, the beautiful barrens of impossible landscapes only possible to visit through sound.

As those familiar with Novak´s previous work and curation will know, Novak´s minimalism contains multitudes, to the point of almost being a mirage. To anyone unfamiliar, this would be a very good place to start.

Stephen Fruitman


About Author

Born and raised in Toronto, Stephen Fruitman has been living in northern Sweden lo these past thirty years. Writing and lecturing about art and culture as an historian of ideas since the early nineties, his articles have appeared in an number of international publications. He is also a contributing editor at Igloo Magazine.