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Minimal Viennese Piano EP

The Monohm netlabel, based in Vienna, Austria, has released one album thus far in 2005, an EP by Markus Brosel, titled Locus. Monohm takes a minimal approach to everything, from its music to its website to its liner notes. Each album gets a list of “descriptors,” and nothing else. On the one hand, this is a bit bothersome, because in the world of abstract music a little explanation can provide significant orientation (oh, these are all radiator sounds, or the tracks are based on Pi to some esoteric degree, or the entire thing is built from faux field recordings, etc.). On the other hand, what’s refreshing about Monohm’s descriptors is that they’re a solid step toward ignoring the idea of genre, which is arguably as specious a construct as race, in favor of something more akin to flavor. Any given Monohm record gets several of these descriptors. For example, the label’s first album carried four tags: minimal, texture, drones, rhythms. Aqua Genic by Drumlake, the release that came out just prior to Locus, is clicks, tones, drones.

And Locus? It is piano, minimal, drones. That neatly sums it up, albeit in an absurdly arid way. Though the EP contains four tracks constructed with that trio of aural elements, it’s really one lengthy piece (track two: “Five Points in Ascent”), at over 16 minutes, and three footnotes (“Forest of Masts,” “Fontana,” “Torchon”), each coming in at under three minutes. Indeed, it does consist of piano and drones and it is as minimal as the label that presented it to the world, but the real listening is somewhere in between, and that’s nothing less than dynamic: the space where the overlap between piano and drone is worked out. It’s fairly lovely music, reminiscent (as would be anything this willfully tepid featuring a piano with the sustain full on) of Michael Nyman’s minimalism, and it has a pleasing effect of running glitchy textures and rudimentary woodwind sounds below the light waves. Check it out at monohm.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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