May 1, 2003
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Soft Pink Truth
The Wind-Up Bird
April 30, 2003
Pale Horse and Rider
Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers
April 29, 2003
Set Fire to Flames
It’s with a touch of mystery that Andrew Duke’s “alphabetic” wakes me from my work doze, late at night in front of my Screen. I switch to Word: it is time to write.
I want to talk a little about Andrew Duke first before I introduce and discuss the rest of this…influential, compilation from BiP-HoP.
Andrew’s track has a deep subterranean rumble, a slow pattern of high-hats that are not so much rhythmic as they are exclamation points, and a chorus of synthesizer tones, warm pads, whose emotional overtones invoke the most beautiful passages of that other Canadian artist, Richie Hawtin—I am thinking of Consumed and of parts of Sheet One and Artifakts. Duke, like Hawtin, has been producing techno for quite some time. You can tell, because his sound is raw. It is dedicated to the machines. Many newer electronic musicians have a cleaner sound, a perfect sound, a sequenced sound—a sound that is still beautiful, but one that is schooled from different influences. Duke’s sound speaks to a past, a fading history of the glory days of techno. It is an overture and a blues song, and it is emotionally spectacular. As if to make clear his point, Duke distorts that precious synthesizer line. It sounds to me like a live distortion: he is playing too loud, pressing the keys too hard. Like a jazz player, bursting the air seams of his trumpet.
From here—and I will return to the first track, in due course—we are presented with Mikael Stavostrand’s new direction, his overlaying beats and quiet sounds, overlapping rhythms that sway in many different directions all at the same time. If you’ve ever been snorkelling in a tropical ocean, you will understand the sensation: small groups of fish are heading here and there, darting out of your way, yet oblivious to the waves overhead; the coral plants sway to and fro with the currents, while larger fish glide past and the air strokes cool across your back. Stavostrand’s music is like this when it is at its best and his rhythms do not become obscurely lost and confused as to their reason for being. This track, “spann,” is a good track, and it sings and sways with little echoing sounds and clicks and dub corals. Eventually we are out of the water, and the beat is gone; but the little choral remains, caught in our toes, the sand on our thighs, remains; and we hear these little particles for some time, telling us their sea-story.
The microsound foray, if we can call such an excursion “microsound,” for it would seem to me that the sound is not all that small, but vast in its mental expansiveness—this foray moves on with Tonne, who seems to pick up right where Stavostrand left off, creating a relaxed and atmospheric palette, a thematic continuation. It is at this point that I realise how well this album has been curated, for its flow, its movement from track to track, carries me with the precision of a seaborn wind; and it is at this point that I begin to think of the sonic influence this album has compiled through a whole that is much larger than its parts. Tonne, if we can stretch metaphors to sand and sound to sea, is with us on the beach; he—and by “s/he” I mean his music, for what I require is a gender neutral pronoun—is the memory of the ocean. The waves are in our ears in the present, but more importantly so is the gritty necessity of sand in our aural canals, and the contented smiles on our faces: indeed, we are smiling at each other, you and I.
Things Get Heavy
Rechenzentrum: when I heard them at Mutek 2001, they pulled the place out of a deep listening slumber into dancing. But this is no dancing piece. This is a sudden shift and the peaceful topography of beach and sand is exploded. The topos itself is displaced through the glitched layering of abstract jazz-trumpet samples, the grinding pulse of a menacing atmosphere best conveyed by the formless words of Richard di Santo of incursion.org: “Their music carries an intensity I find difficult to describe but easy to admire, a rich, rhythmic tapestry of digital glitches and bizarre sounds.” The sounds, to me at least, are far from bizarre: they are industrial, radio-static hums and frequencies, the pulsing black tubes of the machines and their beautiful lovers, the warm wires of electricity; and together, they make love, and that love is jazz: distorted, fucked-up jazz, jazz with bumps and clicks and serious misgivings. It’s like crossing vinyl cat-suit German porn with the jazz scene in Killing Zoe. Is this the “bizarre”? This strange pere-version? The whole track is leading toward something unspeakable, a tension that is building through a rising repetition and the hyper-sexual sounds of the human voices—echoing, crying out, begging—that become displaced and battle the increasing thrust of the repetition, which begins to breath and scrape as the jazz distorts itself in orgasmic bliss until the grinding de-clicks itself into sudden exhaustion and the jouissance of release.
We’re heading somewhere: to D’Iberville, to be exact.
“le souffle c’est la vie” pays homage to the Concept 96 work of Richie Hawtin. But it goes much farther than Hawtin has attempted to traverse. It begins where Hawtin left off, and beyond even this, it begins where Rechezentraum left its victims. It begins with the pulse and the beat of the wired workings of the human mind-machine, left alone to its imagination and contemplation over its singularly perverse sexual desire.
What is it that still attracts us to the almost sinister repetition of the solitary sounds of the beast, captured so well by D’Iberville—a new resident of Montreal—in this track? There is something unhuman about the despair of such minimal techno and at the same time something completely at the limit of our rationality, at the touch of our animality and at what makes us the human animal. It is the question of masochism, at what drives us to worship what we cannot grasp, at the limits of what I can write here.
Which is not to say that we should worship these sounds or indeed, D’Iberville. We should, however—the imperative from this particular critic—pay very close attention to where the sounds have brought D’Iberville aka Julien Berthier, and as the next two tracks unfold—“bruit venu d’ailleurs” and “gigue”—as to how Berthier focuses his attention upon certain aspects of the sounds. It is the same intensity found in the Variants work of Tomas Jirku: it holds the attention with the single blade of a knife glinting in darkness.
That First Track
It’s a hint of all things to come—solitary, precise sounds, manipulated over time and set to a beat that is relaxed and yet dark in its recesses. The track is “bloom” by Accelera Deck, and it is paradoxically melancholic yet playful, like a drunk Pong player, scoring up in the high 000000s, reminiscing over the days of much simpler video games, simpler electronic music, simpler scenes, and simpler critiques. When a good sound was enough, when movement and amazement preceded the words of a reviewer, when writers instead wrote of pirate utopias and the horizons of where the sounds could take us. Playfully, the song destroys itself—suicide.
There is a “sound toy” on this CD by Tonne. It allows you to put little objects on sliders, and if you have the patience, to spell out “B I P H O P” by sequencing everything. Of course you can have a bit more fun than this. (It’s the same object that was on the BiP HoP website for awhile. Owners of OS X: start Classic before running the app, and just run it off the CD—don’t bother to unstuff the .sea to your drive unless you want to keep it).
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