a big circle drawn with little hands

steve roden
LP with full color insert
edition: 250 - numbered

  1. sixteen hands waiting for rain.
  2. two hand submerged in water.
  3. sparks from one hand on fire.
  4. two hands behind glass.
  5. one hand pressing a pencil against a tree.
  6. forty hands in anticipation of a word.

a big circle drawn with little hands was created from a box of things sent to me by sylvian, who runs the ini itu label. the box contained everything from newspapers, coins, wooden toys, pamphlets, plastic objects, plastic bags, broken airline headphones, notes, a bottle opener, a noise maker of wood, a small electronic toy shaped like a butterfly that offered tones and animal noises, cardboard, a fan, and other things. i also used a banjo in the first track, and my voice in the last track.

the LP was mastered by taylor deupree, and the cover design and photos were done by sylvain.

a number of people have attempted to “de-code” the song titles, but like the rest of the approach to the soundmaking, etc. the titles actually also came from one of the items in the box of stuff sylvain sent to me – a newspaper, and i used each of the photographs to determine the titles, based on the number of hands appearing in an image as well as the image’s narrative. the title of the LP was based on a drawing made by sylvain’s daughter.

  • reviews:
  • Individually hand-numbered edition of 250 copies for the world, comes with full colour A3 poster** LA’s Steve Roden has been exploring “lowercase” sounds both as In Be Tween Noise and under his own name, for a panoply of imprints including Line, 12k, Trente Oiseaux etc for the last 20 years. His latest lands on the worldly wise Ini.Itu label and utilises the kind of bric-a-brac you’d find in an old drawer at home – foreign coins, kids toys, wooden clackers – to create fragile and strangely absorbing little soundworlds. We’re assuming there’s a connection with Indonesia to ‘A Big Circle Drawn With Little Hands’, but it’s not made clear by the press notes; there’s just a quote in Malay on the cover and references on the insert to go from, but some of the voices and humid field recording textures would also point to that region. Over its course we’re reminded of lots of artists, from the haptic rustles of Bellows or even Kevin Drumm, to the solitary melodies of the Cotton Goods lot and Francisco Lopez’s electro-acoustic renders of location recordings, which basically hints at a well refined feel for density of space and nuanced texture. It’s an unpredictable music which absorbs and intrigues with wistful subtlety. Really strong label and album this, highly recommended.

  • On Steve Roden’s LP the ‘world music’ is entirely gone, but ini.itu is not a label to hand out open invitations, like ‘give me some music and I’ll release’. By no field recordings from far away countries or music from such countries, Roden was send a box of objects to produce sound with, and shown on the printed insert (which is a first for ini.itu, along with the LP by Mutamassik to have such inserts). We see a toy keyboard, coins, old airplane headphones, paper, wooden objects, some metal objects, a CDR. Just like his work with Machinefabriek this is not the result of file exchange but exchange of objects and in the hands of Roden turned into great music. By listening to this music, six tracks in total, its not always easy to recognize those objects. Roden creates a sound with it, records it and then loops it around, masses these loops and builds a fine piece of music with it. Usually quite linear in approach: Roden starts a sound, adds one more, adds another one etc, and all of this he does in a rather smooth and gentle way. And then at one point he takes away things, usually all of them at once via a fade out and then a new piece starts. Its, as said, all quite loop heavy, and Roden doesn’t use the long form of playing sounds by hand. Perhaps one could say that the downside is that he does whatever he does, but the good news is that he does this with great care and style. This album doesn’t shed any new light on the work of Roden, and fulfills whatever you have been expecting from him. Not his best, not at his most original but surely another fine addition to his vast catalogue.

    frans de waard / vital
  • We’ve got a new LP from Pasadena’s Steve Roden with six of his gentle, loosely improvised pieces. According to the press release, “His working process often uses a combination of idiosyncratic notations using colors or symbols, an association of self-imposed rules and openings for intuitive improvisations”, and the tracks on here have all been created using specific and unusual materials – coins, toys, wooden rattles, little bits of rock, etc.

    Opener ‘sixteen hands waiting for rain.’ has patient loops of dinking percussive half-melodies for a spacious, feel-good piece that’s making me think of a more minimal, highbrow Sun Araw, while the the lengthy piece which follows it, ‘two hands submerged in water.’ (all the track titles have this lowercase format, start with a number of hands and end with a full stop, presumably to mirror the “lowercase” genre the press release claims Roden has coined for a music that “bears a certain sense of quiet and humility; it does not demand attention, it must be discovered. the work might imply one thing on the surface but contain other things beneath.”), is full of hazy, sleepy and slightly sinister drones accompanied by some sort of intermittent creaking, grating sound. Very relaxing, kind of like a midpoint between Deathprod and Machinefabriek. Finally on the first side we’ve got ‘sparks from one hand on fire.’ with chirping crickets and a slow bass throb over some distant gliding violin drones, static clicks and glimpses of field recordings.

    Flip it and ‘two hands behind glass.’ has glassy high-pitched squeak-loops, ‘one hand pressing a pencil against a tree.’ is a crackling industrial rumblescape with distant-foghorn mid-end, and closer ‘forty hands in anticipation of a word.’ has barely-there breathy processed analogue flutters and sounds like a big scary monster having a nap. It’s often hard to place which of the weird objects is making which sound, but the delicate, measured way that they are constructed means it remains intriguing and relaxing throughout. Fans of weird ambient sound art will be sure to dig this.

    norman records
  • A poster shows up inside the Roden sleeve, too, though it’s a tad smaller than the Mutamassik image and photographic rather than illustrative. Even so, it’s a nice complement to the disc itself, which features six pieces the Pasadena-based sound artist produced using specific audio materials (in keeping with ini.itu’s initial proposition) that Roden supplemented with radio, old records, and other sound sources. The poster imagery isn’t unrelated to the musical content on “a big circle drawn with little hands” either as the items displayed—coins, a toy piano, can opener, etc.—are the unusual objects he used to generate the album’s micro-detailed soundworlds. As such, the placidly meandering “Two Hands Submerged in Water” actually conjures a wistful aura in its dream-like ambient flow. “Two Hands Behind Glass” likewise nurtures a meditative ambiance in the way its flickering tones and agitated percussive patterns arrange themselves into a chattering micro-universe. “Sparks From One Hand on Fire” sounds like a recording captured outdoors, seeing as how its musical tones are smothered in the nocturnal whirr of insects and distorted voice noises. A track such as “Forty Hands in Anticipation of a Word” suggests that Roden has used a minimum of source materials in a given setting but has exploited their potential resourcefully in order to produce a maximal range of sound effects. The song titles—“One Hand Pressing a Pencil Against a Tree,” a representative example—hint at the production processes involved in their construction, though it’s also possible that the titles are designed to serve a purely evocative end only; the cover note—“all sounds generated or organized by Steve Roden in The Bubble House”—only adds to the mystery. The recording’s enigmatic music draws the listener in with its unhurried and wandering spirit, and one comes away from the album generally charmed by its electro-acoustic curiosities.

    texturra blog
  • Avoir dû chroniquer Proximities m’a fait retrouver le chemin de Steve Roden. Il aura fallu ça. C’est qu’on se croit parfois si familier de l’électronique minimaliste qu’on pense, et c’est dommage, pouvoir se passer d’écouter telle ou telle nouveauté, telle ou telle nouvelle collaboration (celle de représentants de l’école « lowercase » : Steve Roden / Richard Chartier / Bernhard Günter / Taylor Deupree…).

    Deupree au mastering, c’est en solo que Roden nous revient avec A Big Circle Drawn With Little Hands, LP tout juste sorti sur la remarquable écurie belge Ini.Itu. S’il œuvre ici dans une veine expérimentale, l’Américain ne se départit pas d’une atmosphère cotonneuse qui a fait sa réputation et qui peut revêtir ici les atours d’une Music for Airports nouvelle génération (reloaded ?). Car son ambient est faite de nappes synthétiques, de loops vacillantes et de field recordings mais aussi fait la part belle à des présences (un groupe d’aliens, un chat qui ronronne, un fantôme d’enfant sur une balançoire). Ce sont les images que je me suis faites de ces présences qui se fondent dans le décor, et j’avoue qu’elles parlent assez mal de ce que contient ce disque. Pour plus de précision, je conseillerais simplement d’écouter ces deux extraits et même, pour ne pas rater le coche, de vous ruer sur l’une des 250 copies d’A Big Circle Drawn With Little Hands, le nouveau chef d’œuvre de Steve Roden.