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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Puzzle Piece MP3s

In advance of its recent release, the album May 23rd 2007 (that’s its title) by the Kallikak Family (aka skilled studio concocter Andrew Peterson) was represented by a single MP3, just under three minutes of eerie sound design titled “Second Phase” (MP3). It begins with a thick amalgam that suggests a subterranean train station, as it mixes slowly moving industrial noise, overheard human voices, and tones that could be some sort of background music; after a short while the noise retreats and the voices and tones meld into one sinuous whole, along the lines of early, elegant Mouse on Mars.

Subsequently, the label that released May 23rd 2007, Tell-All Records, posted a second full MP3, the title cut (MP3), with some advice: “it’s best listened to in conjunction with our other free download, ‘second phase.’ download them both and listen in order.” This new track employs what could be heard as an opposing tactic to “Second Phase,” moving from soft and inchoate to loud and rambunctious. It’s raspier, and considerably more chaotic, than “Second Phase,” with snatches of processed machine percussion and sung vocals, quoting familiar objects from dance music but only as elements in a flanging, abstract, forward-moving mosaic. The title cut precedes “Second Phase” on the album, and thus emphasizes the quietude of the latter.

Peterson’s Kallikak project takes its name, presumably, from the study by American psychologist Henry H. Goddard, whose research into inherited mental deficiencies is cited as an early American eugenics text. Kallikak’s previous album, Vineland Social Maturity Scale (States Rights), was named for another artifact of 20th-century social-science research. The name “Kallikak,” which Goddard made up to provide anonymity for the studied family, is probably a better choice for a moniker on Peterson’s part than another word reportedly coined by Goddard: “moron.” For more information, visit the label’s website, tellallrecords.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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