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Gibberish Shreds

by Ali Can Puskulcu

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In his series “Gibberish Shreds,” Turkish composer and violinist Ali Can Puskulcu uses fragments of quasi-language in combination with extended techniques on violin and live processing to create hyperactive material that marries a deft sense for building cohesive layered textures with a flair for the absurd. The five works heard here share a vocabulary assembled from granular gestures but are contrasting in other striking ways.

Volume I, which opens the program, is a recording of the live premiere of the piece, and as such is a pure representation of Puskulcu’s mastery over the diverse sounds available from his onstage set up. For the first several minutes of the work, Ali alternates between a torrent of nonsense syllables with cascading downward vocal glissandi and a spatialized chorus of comically disconcerting guttural and snorting sounds. Subsequent sections fixate on swirling loops that are panned around the stereo field and disembodied, creating ethereal pads of sound. While the moment to moment texture often relies on delayed reiterations of introduced material, Puskulcu evades the pitfalls of many layered loop pieces by navigating the larger scale texture through several sections of contrasting levels of density.

Volume II starts similarly, but quickly features a more prominent melodic role for the violin, with vigorous arpeggiated and accordion-like chordal textures subjected to delays. Puskulcu’s approach to text shifts momentarily midway through this volume, with complete words spoken in varying volumes over an unsettling background. The arpeggiated textures of the opening bloom briefly into a tintinnabulating chorus before focusing back on a single, increasingly disfigured violin sound. Processing overwhelms the acoustic sound of the instrument for a dramatic close.

Puskulcu writes, “Volumes III through V contain significant amounts of pre-recorded tracks and samples, and the contrapuntal relationship between the live sounds and the pre-recorded tracks plays an important role.” Volume III features more extensive pitch material, including an expansive chordal section, a scat-like vocal solo over pre-recorded gongs, and a close to the piece that evokes the discordant sounds of distant foghorns.

Volume IV stands in stark contrast to the articulate sounds of the other works in the series. It is dominated by ambient windscape sounds that ascend in register and intensity over several minutes. Towards the middle of the work, gull-like gibberish sounds mix with incantations to produce a haunting effect.

The opening of Volume V seems to place the listener inside an arcade or casino, with percolating electronic sounds mixed with Puskulcu’s rich vocabulary of vocal effects. An ethereal chordal section reminiscent of the material in Volume III washes over the texture, is pulled apart into small bits, and remerges before a final closing gesture of static.Volume V is a perfect coda for the set, a distillation of Puskulcu’s approach and techniques into three and a half minutes, but one that also points forward towards some new aesthetic territory.

“Gibberish Shreds” is an ambitious effort by an artist who is adept at mining the possibilities of his performance forces as a solo artist. The trajectory of the five works in the series goes beyond the initial impulse of the project in Volume I to craft an idiosyncratic album length piece whose shape and scope consistently pushes the boundaries of what is possible from a solo set.

-D. Lippel


released April 3, 2020

Volume I recorded live by Adam Borecki in Ramo Hall, Los Angeles

Volume II-V recorded by Ali Can Puskulcu at his home studio in NYC

Photos: Steven Pisano

Design: Marc Wolf (marcjwolf.com)




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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