Review of A Piece Of String, A Sunset [12k1023]

Haunted Ink (US)

If nothing else, Doron Sadja’s A Piece of String, a Sunset wins the award for most imaginative album title by a 12k artist (though that’s hardly a contest, considering the label’s penchant for one-word titles like Varied, Occur, Dust, and After). But Sadja’s first solo effort has a lot more going for it than a mere title. While this work might not have any of the overpowering joy of Sogar’s Apikal Blend or any of the cool precision of 0/r’s Varied, it possesses an originality, a vibrancy, and a beauty that makes it the equal of anything else in the 12k catalogue – which is to say, any music you’re likely to hear this year.

This album, like many 12k works, is built around a concept. Unlike other 12k works, the concept here is not thematic but sound-based. Basically, Sadja took barely perceptible sine waves and digitally fused them with random crackles of noise and some odd guitar and violin loops. With these source sounds, Sadja created five different tracks, each one making use of the same sounds but in different ways.

On the first track, a hissing sine wave pattern is stretched out for about ten minutes, while bits and pieces of noise mix with a pool of long, cold, wet hisses (that last, yes, for about three days). There are even echoes of Conet-like Morse code signals crawling through the mire of noise and confusion. The end result of this garbage burrito of noise is disturbing, to say the least. On first listen, it reminded me of standing waist-deep in a sewage processing plant. By the third listen, the sewage was up to my neck.

Track two isn’t that much happier, though it does features an actual pulsing beat, which is only occasionally interrupted by a wet hiss, some high-pitched twinkling sounds, and a long, drunken buzz. It’s an interesting work simply because it manages to be both creepy and funky at the same time – a difficult feat!

The other three tracks offer a similar eclectic collage of sounds and song structures, with the added bonus that they are a lot happier (or at least a little less creepy). Track three, the shortest track, features some silence, some noisy violin screeches, and what I think is a female voice wailing and breathing slowly. Track four features an almost Autechre-like distorted beat mixed with a soothing synth melody. The similarity to early Autechre makes this the weakest track on the album, though it is (I must admit) a pleasant change from the static-filled, ultra minimalism of other 12k works. Finally, track five – the finest track on this or any 12k release–takes an amazing, Fennesz-like guitar loop and builds a distorted symphony around it that bristles, crackles, and sputters along in a half-recognizable stupor for six minutes, only to emerge in full clarity for a few moments, before it slowly descends back into distortion through a wash of echoes and silence. This is a remarkably powerful ending to a remarkably powerful album.

My favorite album of 2002 was Inflation (*0 0.000 Remix), an album that proved that, in this age of digital manipulation of sound, nothing can be literally transformed into anything. Sadja’s A Piece of String, a Sunset proves not only that simple sound sources can be transformed into any kind of musical experiment the artist desires, but that these experiments can also result in works of true emotional power for the listener. If you’ve never given 12k Records a chance before, I’d suggest you start with this one.

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