Review of Active/Freeze [12k1009]

Ambientrance (US)

If previous 12k releases have reveled in the microscopic breakdown of sound (and they have), then Active / Freeze finds label leader Taylor Deupree working with noted ambientologist Tetsu Inoue (this month’s exclusive interviewee) to deconstruct those atomic bits even further… we’re talking sonic quarks and gluons here!

Inexplicable activities are fascinating to hear, but definitely not simply “easy” listening. It’s a tiny chaos which is sure to baffle many unprepared listeners. The miniature clicks, pops and whirrs of “Modern / Error” really seem to probe into my brain, drilling from each side with very distinct right/left separation. Everything smooths somewhat as the track evolves. Static outbursts, twirly electronic strands and what seem to be general shuffling around noises take a “New / Path” (1:40) along an extremely granulated trail. “Remote / Beauty” is awash in glitchy comings and goings and a series of semi-rhythmic pulsations; phantasmal guitar memories make for an odd loveliness.

Seemingly random fragments make “Active / Freeze” sound as if something is burning on a submolecular level, while crystalline crackling noises simultaneously seem to be freezing it. Brief musical bits add a sliced-and-diced sense of melody which churns in sweet abstraction. More infinitesimally small blips of various composition cheep in a slow, almost-tuneful fashion in “Begin / Restore”.

Chimingly discordant remnants appear in “Interior / Tone”, more dreamily looping through a less jarring backdrop, though one which still ruffles with microactive pops, etc. “Oto / Obje” evidences certain spookily wafting tendencies behind a gurgling wall of unknowable sources. Jingling, buzzing bytes and bits of “Data / I” oscillate in self-repeating particle streams which lead into yet another never-before-heard micro-wonderland.

“Squidgy” isn’t really a word, but it keeps popping into my head as a perfect adjective for “Lin / Fill” which sputters with wetly buzzy outbursts; it sounds like a tiny microphone was placed in a teeny computerized swamp. Topped with a flurry of machine-like activity, “Layer / Cut” (4:16) is allowed to develop more of a continual flow than its hyperfragmentized predecessors. Geiger counter clicks and muffled organ- and bell-like tones seep through “Render / Point” which slowly unfolds like some grainy pixelated flower.

Persistence pays off when listening to Active / Freeze (46:15)… by warding off the impulsive “ergh… whatta buncha noise!” attitude, one is able to slip between the miniscule cracks and into Tetsu Inoue & Taylor Deupree’s sharedaudiovision. The small-scale cacophony reveals many moments of obtuse beauty strewn amongst the 14 piles of digital debris. Admittedly, it took a little growing-on to finally achieve its appreciative 8.7 AmbiEntrance rating.

At 1,000 copies, this is the first 12k release to be printed in more than 500.

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