The Agents of Impurity reviewed

Subject: The Agents of Impurity reviewed
From: Richard Whitelaw (
Date: Thu Oct 21 2004 - 09:57:03 EDT

New York City- based poet Kenneth Goldsmith is founding director of, an invaluable site that started as an archival resource for
visual and sound poetry and has become a more generalised ³clearinghouse for
the avant garde². Within Ubuweb Frank Zappa and The Velvet Underground
mingle with the likes of Salvador Dali and Alberto Giacometti and a host of
fascinating, obscure and unlikely figures. Goldsmith has curated The Agents
of Impurity (Sonic Arts Network CD), offering a taste of his online
collection while celebrating work that invites ³new strategies of intake²
with eye and ear. The print selection veers from the compact self-reference
of Gertrude Steinıs ³Five Words in a Line² to the exhaustive permutatory
minimalism of Samuel Beckettıs ³Watt², from Claude Closkyıs obsessive and
unreadable ³The First Thousand Numbers Classified in Alphabetical Order² to
the visual concision of bpNicholıs concrete poetry. On the CDıs 15 tracks,
language is vividly present in voices; not a transparent medium but a
complex environment, a bludgeon, playground, toolkit, a stream of detritus,
mound of rubble, bag of tricks, beating pulse. Moods vary from Antonin
Artaudıs raw vocal flailing to the calm detachment of Neil Mills ³Seven
Number Poems² ­ a pleasing retrieval from the 1971 Arts Council LP,
"Experiments in Disintegrating Language". Diversity is crucial. Erik Belgum
discovers mantric incantation in marital discord. Dokaka performs a cappella
hardcore. Caroline Bergvall delves into micro-linguistic particles. Todd
Colby goes wild for cake. Ergo Phizmiz juggles environmental sounds and
vocal samples. How we read, how we listen alters as media change, new
technologies develop, our senses are subtly realigned and hybrid forms
evolve. Goldsmith shows the avant garde, agents of impurity, registering
such modifications, playing games and having fun.
Julian Cowley ­ The Wire

The Agents of Impurity is available from

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