Review of Varied [12k1018]

The Wire (UK)

Stereophonically distributed rhythmic clicks are a familiar sound in the world of glitch. Once they provided an ironic commentary on analogue recordings: digital perfection reproducing the crackle content of dodgy vinyl and employing it as a rhythmic resource. Elevating the status of the flaws of music reproduction over music itself was tongue-in-cheek iconoclasm, and that, coupled with a return to musical fundamentals, made for a stripped down soundworld that was strangely familiar but fundamentally strange.

Nowadays such methods can come over as cliched tiresome. But 0/r – Nosei Sakata (trading under the moniker *0, which means ‘multiplied by zero,’ ie: nothing) and richard chartier – create a largely abstract music which avoids traps set by familiarity. Chartier’s lowercase electronic compositions have been heard on a number of labels including Trente Oiseaux, Meme and Fällt. He’s the co-founder, with Taylor Deupree, of Line (sister label to Deupree’s 12k), whose products are described as “digital, conceptual, minimalist sound art.” Not just music, then. Should we listen to varied with an altered mindset because it’s sound art? Are the aesthetics different, or just the terms of reference? Here, with Sakata, Chartier uses rhythm to a greater degree than on his solo recordings, although the results are far from motoric. And despite Sakata’s solo work being described as “compterised anti-music” exploring “the conceptual aspect of implied silence,” this collaborative effort is extremly musical. It makes telling use of space rather than silence – implied or otherwise.

The cd’s nine pieces, all entitled “Varied”, might constitute a suite, but it’s not a cohesive one, like the title suggests. Yet it works particularly well on shuffle play, in which the spaces around sound events are fractionally reconfigured. As the narrative possibilities increase, they become ever more elusive. – brian marley

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