Review of Box Music [12k1048]

Boomkat (UK)

Fewer and fewer CD-Rs seem to be coming our way from the Machinefabriek camp nowadays, but perhaps that’s because Rutger Zuydervelt has taken his place among the ranks of the most established, household names of the microsound genre. Being published by 12k generally means you’re in the club. If there is any one label at the top of the tree in terms of its profile and all-round creative accomplishment, 12k would be it, and so this new collaboration between Zuydervelt and the sound artist Stephen Vitiello might be seen as a handing over of the key to the executive washroom, so to speak. The concept behind Box Music is that each artist would send the other a package filled with (usually non-musical) objects with which to start a composition – it’s certainly a neat way around that time-tested collaboration mechanism: file-swapping; something that to the outsider has embodied the dehumanised, solitary processes of electronic music making. The first piece showcases the results of Machinefabriek’s treatments of materials, namely bells, books, tin foil and buttons. Cards on the table though, people: Vitiello could have FedExed Zuydervelt an Ostrich and this would still have ended up sounding utterly lovely. The excellent third exercise “Field Recordings, Rocks, Speakers” makes hints towards melodies, establishing a charged up atmosphere that bursts into life once that low end starts moving around in the second half. Perhaps the real revelation here is Stephen Vitiello: his solo pieces are grounded in a more academic mindset, operating via the language that widely informs acousmatic music and sound art, exploring a wider variety of timbral properties innate to his sources rather than leaning towards the sculpting of out-and-out drone tapestries. The real triumph of Box Music is the album’s incredible closing piece, a direct collaboration between both artists using chocolate sprinkles, rice, plastic bags, tape and an egg cutter. That doesn’t sound like an especially convincing way of starting the compositional process, but in fact, the end result is quite marvellous, culminating in a crescendo of activity and grain texture. Exemplary work from both parties – Essential Purchase.

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