The Poland-born musician Bogdan Raczynski fits right in on the Rephlex label — run by musician Aphex Twin — where he’s the house prankster in a house of pranksters. His songs have a brevity and goofiness that makes them stand apart. And his music often includes a tenderness that elevates the work well above mere goofiness. Using simple, Casio-style tones and rudimentary, four-four beats, his records can sound like a throwback, some sorta old-school video-game backing sounds — even when he adds modern-day elements like breakcore beats and jungle madness. But in fact, there’s a lot more melodic development at work than the glimmery surfaces might suggest.
This may not count as a prank, per se, but the entirety of his new album, Alright!, which came out in mid-November, is available officially for free download as ZIP file (ZIP) — the catch is, the files are all encoded at 16kbps. That’s in contrast with 128kbps for most commercial MP3s, which is still widely considered relatively poor quality. In an online announcement about the novel promotion, Raczynski describes the 16kbps as “horrendous” and adds: “Please note that these are very lo-fi mp3’s. I don’t want people thinking the actual CD will sound like I’ve filtered my music through a bucket of butter.” Still, it’s one thing to listen to a vocalist or a cellist compressed to 16kbps, and another to listen to music that sounds like it was composed in an era when the plinka-plinka of Pac-Man was state-of-the-art.