Review of After [12k1017]

Haunted Ink (US)

Micro_Mutek 2. Montreal, Canada. 6 April, 2001. Three well-known electronic artists -Kim Cascone, Richard Chartier, Taylor Deupree – perform separately. There was much rejoicing. Then, at the end of the evening, they come together to perform a 20 minute track, improvising the sounds off their laptops as they go along.

“Cascone+Chartier+Deupree.” Considering how different each artist’s work is from the others – Chartier’s ultra-ultra-ultra minimal, almost not even there soundscapes; Deupree’s abstract, melodic uncertainties; Cascone’s fuzz-box weirdoness – it’s surprising how easily the three artists come together here. The music is haunting -deep, echoing synth tones float all over the place, like rabid bats or alien spaceship sounds from early Sci-Fi films. The music is static – glitches and pops and warbles rumble everywhere, at times forming consistent rhythms, at other times just adding more menace to the haunting melodies. The music is beautiful – soft, creepy cricket chirps smatter about, turning occasionally into digital noise. If anything, the three artists sound like a digital Pan Sonic – starkly minimal sounds creating maximum sonic and emotional effects (and affects). 20 minutes is a long time in music terms, but the variety of sounds here – the constant weaving from one emotion to another, from one digital burp to another, from one rhythm or anti-rhythm to another – makes this single track feel like an entire suite of tracks, each one bound and in synch to the others, but nevertheless managing an existence all its own.

Time passes. The artists enjoyed working together, obviously, and found their creation to be memorable enough to document for others outside Montreal to hear. So they take that initial track and create, separately, three other tracks based on that live recording. Then they release all four tracks in this nice, 12k packaged work.

“New World Rising (New Density Mix).” Kim Cascone. Focusing on elements from the end of the live recording, Cascone here reworks a bath of sine waves and a creepy, “walking on an old wooden staircase” melody-rhythm, churning up the tones, adding digital glitches and stutters to drown out (but not overwhelm) the staircase creep, and pushing each of these sounds further, into darker terrains and more discordant avenues of noise. As the title suggests, this is certainly denser than the original, and coming after the original as it does here, it plays like a deep, dark refrain. Interesting.

“Afterimage.” Richard Chartier. Chartier’s music is more about silence than sound. His recent works have embraced the minimalism of Bernhard Gunter, Brian Eno, and John Cage in their desire to focus the listener’s attention on how silence and sound interact with one another. 11:37 in length, this track is literally an “afterimage” of the live recording, in the sense that an afterimage is only a shadow of the original. At first, there is nothing: silence. Coming as it does after Cascone’s noisy opus, this silence is significant, as, suddenly, your ears are empty, freed up from the pulverization of the last two tracks. But then, slowly, sounds emerge – faintly, almost as though your ears are vibrating from the sounds you just finished hearing and are only imagining these new sounds. But no – the sounds are there. They grow, bubble, hum – still in the background, but nevertheless audible. At times, sharp clicks and bubbles of noise will suddenly bulge to the top before disappearing back into the fray. Midway through, though, the hum grows stronger, louder, warmer, before again disappearing. Then faint clicks grow, puddle around, like rain, building slowly and deliberately. As the clicks grow, the hum returns, though still in the background. These sounds never “emerge,” explode and deaden the silence that still dominates; rather, they hover, growing, building, retreating, until the afterimage ends. The song is a test of one’s patience if you are unwilling to listen to the subtle interplay between sound and silence; but if you consider the silence itself as part of the song, this track becomes fascinating. That Chartier chose to create this track out of the glitch-filled, melodious live recording is not surprising – this is quintessential Chartier, after all – but it works perfectly here, situated after Cascone’s noise and before Deupree’s static.

“4+2_Stil Live.” Taylor Deupree. If Cascone’s track is one extreme and Chartier’s another, Deupree’s track fits nicely in between. Borrowing some of the droning hums heard in faint echoes on “Afterimage,” Deupree layers a static rhythm atop a Pan Sonic-like chorus of deep, dark, menacing tones that grow louder and louder and louder, building a momentum that seems determined to overwhelm your ears – in the same way that those tones do NOT overwhelm your ears on Chartier’s track. Interestingly, as this momentum builds, it is the rhythm that gets the loudest, faint static stabs pulsing up against your ears as the chorus loops above and around. This weird avalanche goes on for 9 minutes, building and swirling and stabbing at your ears, waiting to pounce on you like a fat guy on a Pop-Tart. What makes this even more menacing is the fact that there is, in fact, a consistent rhythm here – those stabs of static actually form patterns, like an advancing Napoleonic army. This is one fuckingly creepy track, I’ve got to say, and it’s an incredible end to a decidedly eclectic 47 minutes.

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