The Rita - Toe Cleavage 7CS
With his flagship project, The Rita, Sam McKinlay has, for nearly two decades, explored and distilled into sound various permutations of fetish and vice. He is recognized as the creator of Wall Noise (or Harsh Noise Walls/HNW), but that sound — massive and rich textural layers of relentless, monolithic fields of distortion — was nothing new, in and of itself. It was McKinlay's conceptual intent and the singular intensity of his focus that established it as something novel and profound. One recognizes in McKinlay's unwavering approach to his body of work the obsessiveness of the fetishist. McKinlay's compulsive reverence for noise — for the unyielding, deliberate weight of Wall Noise — is a fetish of sound. There is an aesthetic rigor often associated with the fetishization of form or object. Seen through the eyes of the most focused and obsessed, even sordid and sexual fixations often manifest in a manner that is highly refined, sculpted, concentrated, and even artistic. The line distinguishing the artist from the fetishist is always blurry and often non-existent.
Though his musical approach has remained more or less consistent, the subject matter inspiring McKinlay's work has periodically shifted through the years, mapping out the constellation of non-musical obsessions that occupy his mind: sharks, drag racing, Giallo cinema, skateboarding, and snorkeling, to name just a few. Frequently, McKinlay utilizes field recordings and other sounds sourced from the objects of interest before encrypting them in an opaque shell of noise. Listening to McKinlay's recordings, it's often difficult to determine whether one actually hears the sounds of the source material or if the power of suggestion is so strong in McKinlay's presentation that the listener extracts phantom sounds from the chaotic rumble.
In recent years, McKinlay has increasingly focused on the female form, particularly the modes of body augmentation that define classical femininity, such as make up, nylon stockings, etc. The progression of this focus culminated — perhaps inevitably — with the most archetypal projection of femininity in Western Culture: the ballerina, her feet, and her pointe shoes. The foot of a woman has long been identified as the most common source of unusual sexual preoccupation. It is a part of the body that is frequently utilized and easily damaged. In its immaculate form, it is rare and precious. The foot is the terminal point of the body, the most distant corporal destination from the seat of consciousness. McKinlay's music might be viewed in similar terms. HNW is arguably the terminal point of music itself, beyond which it's impossible to achieve greater or more effective minimalism and abstraction. It is a pure, visceral sound, untethered from intellectual and emotional composition.
Toe Cleavage is the most comprehensive expression of McKinlay's recent endeavors. For the uninitiated, the term “toe cleavage” refers to the display of the upper portions of toes in low cut shoes — an essential detail for many shoe designers and an aptly selected title for this collection. Across the seven tapes in this set, McKinlay, through his music, dissects, indulges, illustrates, and worships the feminine foot. To that end, McKinlay worked with Los Angeles based visual artist Olivia Burr and recording artist Kristin Hayter (Lingua Ignota). In addition to photographic contributions, Burr and Hayter provided much of the source material for McKinlay including: dance studio floor recordings; contact mic'd ballet shoes; and the repeated unboxing, unwrapping, trying on, walking in, and re-boxing of various designer shoes (Valentino, Miu Miu, etc.). Adding depth to the overall experience, McKinlay interspersed interludes throughout the recordings featuring audio samples derived from discussions and tutorials about pointe shoes, toe cleavage, and various designer ballet flat and stiletto reviews. This set of recordings is arguably McKinlay's most focused and obsessive effort to date and perfectly embodies the cultivated stylistic traits that have defined his work through the years.
— Jason Campbell