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Background information
OriginBristol, England
GenresExperimental, electronic, minimal, drone, techno
Years active2005 (2005)–present
LabelsRaster-Noton, Subtext, Caravan
  • James Ginzburg
  • Paul Purgas

Emptyset is a Bristol-based production project, formed in 2005 by James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas.[1] Working across performance, installation and the moving image the project examines the physical properties of sound, through electromagnetism, architecture and process based image making. Their work considers the legacy of analogue media reflecting upon structural/materialist art production and the perceptual boundaries between noise and music. Their recorded output includes the releases Recur and Collapsed for as well as Medium, an expanded live recording in Woodchester Mansion in Gloucestershire. Emptyset have produced installations for Tate Britain and the Architecture Foundation in London, and presented live performances at Arnolfini, Spike Island, Kunsthalle Zurich, Sonic Acts XIV and Club transmediale (CTM) festival.[2]

The London-Bristol duo, are preoccupied with interstitial spaces: the points at which distortion takes on its own volition; at which form begins to dictate content; at which techno yields to the equipment with which it is made. You might refer to Emptyset’s album work as process music, but their processes are definitively separate from the practices of composers like Reich or Stockhausen. Although Emptyset often explore the potential of composition based on complex “rule-sets”, the duo instead seem primarily interested in the potential of hardware; in the unpredictable possibilities of analogue boxes in labyrinthine signal chains.[3]


Emptyset was seeded in 2005 as a means of exploring the pair's shared interests in rhythmic music and bass. Both have backgrounds within Bristol's club music scene: Ginzburg runs Multiverse, the Bristol-based studio complex and collective of record labels that initiated (among others) Pinch's Tectonic and Subtext, which has released much of Emptyset's earlier releases. He also produces sub-heavy, synth-led club tracks as Ginz, and can take joint responsibility for Joker's monstrous rave crushers 'Purple City' and 'Re-Up'. Purgas, who now lives in London (although Emptyset is nominally Bristol-based), has a history in art and sound art curation, a background in techno, and more recently has been curating exploratory electronic music events under the banner We Can Elude Control.[4]


  • Borders / / Thrill Jockey (2017)
  • Recur / Raster-Noton (2013)
  • Material / Subtext recordings (2013)
  • Collapsed / Raster-Noton (2012)
  • Medium / Subtext recordings (2012)
  • Demiurge / Subtext recordings (2011)
  • Emptyset / Caravan recordings (2010)[1]



Presented within the central courtyard of the Victoria and Albert Museum the installation of Medium was developed as part of the V&A’s programme exploring sound, performance and architecture.

Emptyset/Cevdet Erek[edit]

Commissioned by Spike Island as a collaborative installation with visual artist Cevdet Erek. The project was presented alongside a metric ruler display of contrasting time and interval values, a corresponding sound installation was developed using aspects of time and movement extracted from Erek’s physical objects.


Developed for Tate Britain’s Performing Architecture programme the film was produced inside the decommissioned [nuclear power station] in Snowdonia, North Wales. Designed by the Modernist architect [Spence] the power station is currently awaiting demolition scheduled for around 2083, the climax to the sites gradual dissolution over the next century. The film was conceived as a companion to Medium, though conversely the project explores a space that has finished its functional arc in oppose to a building never to be completed. The film adopts an anti-monumental perspective of the plants state, using structural film and video techniques to explore the site as processor rather than formal edifice. The piece considers alternative responses to architectural representation through film, avoiding the cultural impulse for the idolizing of ruins, and instead exploring the vast power station as a shadow site destined to be ultimately dissolved and returned to the earth.

Ambika P3[edit]

Commissioned by the Architecture Foundation, the installation took place in the vast Ambika P3 space beneath Baker Street in London. The site existed as a former concrete testing bunker where both the Channel Tunnel and sections of the British motorway were tested. The project reflected on P3’s industrial history working with the sites cavernous reverb and resonant frequencies to produce a dense and immersive sonic installation.


A site specific performance presented inside the former mines underneath Chislehurst, Kent. The performance and subsequent documentation explores the vast 22 mile tunnel system through the application of sine waves, noise and low frequencies. The project investigated the unique sonic and formal qualities of the site, and the signature of its unique interior carved through the rock across hundreds of years of industrial labour.


Based around Woodchester Mansion in Gloucestershire, England. The project explores the vast interior of this incomplete remnant of the Gothic Revival considering the architecture through both sonic and visual processes. Medium was realized through subjecting the building to extreme frequencies in order to address the unique spatial and narrative histories of the site. The project explores the central theme of architecture and incompleteness and considers the mansion as a frozen process, a site whose essence could be decoded and translated through sound.


  1. ^ a b Rich Wilson. "Emptyset | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  2. ^ "Emptyset". Emptyset. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  3. ^ Josh Hall. "Unexpected artefacts: pushing the envelope with Bristol's Emptyset - FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music". Factmag.com. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  4. ^ "Features | In Extremis | Raw Functionality: An Interview With Emptyset". The Quietus. 2012-10-31. Retrieved 2017-03-02.