SCARCELIGHT RECORDINGS > releases > SLR22

return

Chuck Bettis. Sonic Sigils. 3"CD

There is some kind of menacing magick at work here. The magickal intonations captured on this disc were inspired by the pacifist/psychological technique of calming people in heated conversations by catching up to the breathing of the upset person, then slowly, by utilizing your own breathing, slowing down their breathing by slowing down your own.

01. Night On Fire (for Nick Bohn)
02. P.I.E./L.I.T.L.
03. Light In Extension
04. Blipitle Flimalfa
05. Faith Is Fear
06. Neuromancy

:| design by Chuck Bettis


+ recorded live sept - nov 2003 @ the atheist monastery in brooklyn, ny

Reviews

Chuck Bettis' 6-song EP Sonic Sigils starts off sounding like an electric tsunami and ends up like a magical spell. The opening track "Night on Fire" attacks your eardrums with a barrage of electronic noises, some cloudy some sharp, though it backs off from its initial loudness in a way that suggests 'I'm not as scary as I appear to be'. That sentiment sort of runs through Sonic Sigils, as it feels both like a wild, freeform attack and like an olive branch, an attempt to make bugged-out sonic experimental soundfields feel comforting even as they sound wild and hard to pin down. Sonic Sigils was improvised, recorded live, and does feel like it. Bettis' music inhabits a place between 'noise attack' and 'atmosphere' - Sonic Sigils is both at once, demonstrating ways that loud can be gentle, rough can be beautiful, fierce can sound holy, and vice versa.
dave heaton, erasing clouds

Consisting of seven improvisations recorded live during Fall 2003 at Brooklyn’s Atheist Monastery, Chuck Bettis’s Sonic Sigils upholds Scarcelight’s experimental tradition with twenty minutes of scarred electronics. The opening pieces are brief but ferocious, with “Night On Fire (for Nick Bohn)” quite literally a firestorm of sorts, and jittery scrapings and machine belches in “P.I.E./L.I.T.L.” recalling Pita in particular and Mego in general. The longest and quietest piece “Faith Is Fear,” an ambient sketch of itchy skitter and echoing throbs, introduces some welcome nuance, with the more placid mood maintained by the sparkling microbes of “Neuromancy 2” and the spectral murmurings of “Hidden Reverse 2.” Call Sonic Sigils more challenging music from Chris Jeely’s adventurous and uncompromising label.
Ron Schepper - Stylus Magazine; Rubber Room January Volume 3

This deluxe 3" CD features scratchy, fuzzed and distressed scrapes and burbling skittered fragments. Gorgeous graphics by Chuck himself. Contrasting mechanical whines, and tones, tiny microscopic signs of life all darting around in their droplet universe.
George Parsons. Dream Magazine #5

A frenetic release, bouncing from total cut-up tracks of odditiy to mysterious tones chopped up, coming in and out with a little digital pop at the edit points. From delicate bells to near-japanese noise tracks, there is a lot of experimentation going on here. But, what is my single favorite thing about this disc is the artwork on the actual disc - at first I thought it was a square CD, but on closer inspection it is a normal CD with a clear outer area with faint white printing. The center area has full printing, making the disc have a really cool appearance. Neat!
Don Poe - Ear/Rational Music

what a CD! This is one of the most beautifully simple packaging ideas I’ve seen in a long time: the CD is mostly transparent except for a few words in green and a few white owls and a black and green square, this mere square being used to write the audio data on the other side if you follow me. The nineteen-and-a-bit minutes on this record are glitchy and noisy and kind of ear piercing but refrain from only being this, keeping a sense for structure and variety and silence and quietness most Mego releases lack nowadays.
Burning Emptiness

20 minutes of experimental noise that begins on a chaotic, shuffling note with lots of blips, whirrs, wispy distortion, and glitchy textures and arrangements, before claming down a bit with some similar tones that come across in a more subdued manner. "Night on Fire" opens and is by far the most overactive and aggressive piece, with lots of panning effects, layering, and constant movement; followed by the two-part "P.I.E./L.I.T.L." (divided into two separate tracks on the CD) sort of taking a gradual turn towards what's to come, stripping away some of the layering and keeping the movement at a pretty significant level as the volume starts to ease back. "Light in Extension" is the first of the softer tracks, with some watery sounds and crispy reverberations creating a more coherent and consistent two-minute piece; and "Blipitle Flimalfa" is the longest selection at six minutes, another calmer piece (the quietest overall) with more repetition of some ambient undercurrents and ethereal atmospheres. "Faith is Fear" is somewhat similar to "Light in Extension" in its use of watery sounds, though this one gets brighter and more electronic in the foreground. Closer "Neuromancy" is then very quiet, once more taking a sparse ambient route with some laidback sounds similar to those in the preceding tracks, just with less foreground movement and overall activity. Of course the sound quality is clean and clear and sounds very nice, so I have no complaints on that front. The disc comes in a clear sleeve with minimal artwork and text printed directly on the disc in black, green, and white inks. The edges of the disc are clear, so it's sort of a self-packaged piece. It can be hard on the eyes but looks curious for what it is. This is an odd disc. I'm not generally into the glitchier side of things, so the first half of the disc, while not bad, isn't particularly my thing, while I enjoy some of the latter half a bit more. The great recording quality does add something to the work, so I do enjoy this for the most part, however. I'd be curious to hear more to get a better feel for Bettis' other work.
Aversionline

We received a couple of releases by the Birmingham, AL based label Scarcelight. One of them is a 3 inch CD by Chuck Bettis, who has been involved in electronic music for about ten years. This 3" heads off in an extreme way, due to an energetic noise collage. But each song the music gets calmer, till in th eend, during the sixth song, almost a calm ambient level has been reached. The theme of of Sonic sigils is to calm people in hectic conversations by slowing down the breathing of both persons. This step by step appraoch can be found in the music as well. The music gets more harmonic each minute. This beautiful designed output really knows to transpose the theme into music.
Phosphor Magazine, Germany

A word of warning: if it's a hungover morning, skip opener "Night On Fire (for Nick Bohn)". It will hurt you. In fact, it might be a good idea to skip the disc altogether if you're in a fragile state; make yourself a cup of tea, add a shot of whiskey to it and listen to some nice Belle & Sebastian while you curl up on the couch and wait for the liquor to work. If you're feeling adventurous, however, Bettis has a little trip for you. Sonic Sigils begins with the aforementioned "Night On Fire"'s aural assault, all low-pitched whine and digital shuffle, punctuated by rapid-fire layers of hard-panned tape rewind. It tapers from there... all the way down to the subterranean radar of "Neuromancy" and the disconnected, barely audible mutter of the untitled track that follows it. Bettis's work falls into that category of "ambient" that is decidedly not background music. "Blipitle Flimalfa"'s watery squiggles and piercing sonic needles, "Light in Extension"'s space-robot effects-mongering, the machine-like but strained cycling of different rhythmic lines in "Faith is Fear" -- all demand your attention. It ain't pretty, but it's strangely beautiful.
Sarah Zachrich, Splendid

I am all for anything experimental and do have some extremely messed up music in my record collection so was suitably interested when this dropped through my letter box. Apparently Chuck Bettis is 'magick' and to be fair that kind of thing doesn't wash with me after having to endure the complete arse that is Psychic TV and their verbal rubbish for many years. So on to the important bit-the music... Analogue and electronic pulses rage immediately from the off on this 6 tracker at a manic in your face barrage that took a few minutes to level out. Once it did I was quite taken with the ambient backdrops pieced together with chimes and exploratory sonics that settle down nicely taking you on an experimental journey right to the end of the CD. Interesting.
Black Harvest Zine

Upon hearing the first track on this release (entitled "Night On Fire"), a thought ran through my head that it has simply become too easy for people to release music. It wasn't meant as a slam on Bettis in particular, but his extreme opening blast of digitally filtered noise hit my 'I just want to cook some dinner' ears in the right way that it made me both happy and frustrated that there's so much music out there. It made me happy because I know that the digital prickles on Sonic Sigils will no doubt appeal to someone and because of the spread of the internet and small labels, they might just be able to find it. It made me frustrated because it adds to the clutter. As someone with a large collection, I'm constantly trying to find great things and there's a lot of stuff that simply gets jettisoned. Sonic Sigils is 7 tracks of pretty extreme digital fuckery that will probably only appeal to those with an ear for the hardcore Mego label soundscapes (think Florian Hecker) or noise-crunchers like Merzbow. The first four tracks pour out of the speakers like metal splinters from a hacksawed I-beam and it's only on the latter tracks of the album that the harshness somewhat subsides and some fairly unique things emerge. The longest track on the album, "Faith Is Fear" is one of those tracks, and the interlaced squiggling electronics on it gallop along and help make the short release (a interestingly-packaged 3" CD that contains seven songs and just under twenty minutes of music) something less than a migraine inducer. Considering it was recorded live, the scattershod nature of the disc can be considered, but this is still to be approached with caution. Scarcelight has put out some very neat stuff (including work by Accelera Deck and Birchville Cat Motel), but this one hurts (masochists take note).
Rating: 3
AlmostCool

New York experimental musician Chuck Bettis has worked in a wide variety of styles over his decade-longe career, but of late his interest has been in purely digital music. Sonic Sigils presents Betttis in a rare solo appearance, with a 20-minute suite of laptop processing that , unfortunately, demonstrates that the versatile performer is still adjusting to his new medium of choice.
Over the course of seven brief tracks that flow together seamlessly, Bettis indulges in some easily recognizable digital processing, yielding watery burbles and pitch-shifting spurts over a bed of high-pitched tones. It's fairly typical computer music, which, as a result, submerges both Bettis' considerable personality and the emotional investment he appartently pours into these tracks.
Ed Howard - Grooves issue 017