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

Asynchronously Improvised MP3s

The album All Are Welcome by Male comes with a limited amount of explanatory material, but alongside the names of the participants are one simple request and two declarative sentences.

First the request: “Please listen to as loud as possible.” While All Are Welcome ranges from meditative drones to contemplative guitar work to minimalist patterns, it is intended to serve not as background but as a richly detailed aural foreground into which listeners situate themselves. This is true of all four tracks, such as the John Fahey-esque “Dark Advances” (MP3), in which guitar lines slowly repeat atop a foundation of household field recordings. “I’ll Be Standing Soon” (MP3) opens with moody tones before layering in industrial noises and a sequence of beautiful horn playing that nods to Miles Davis, Jon Hassell, Ben Neill and Nils Petter Molvær, but that is more willfully stunted and austere than anything those gentlemen have recorded. The key word in the previous sentence is “layering,” but more on that in a moment.

As for the declarative sentences that accompany the album, they contain a seeming conflict: “All Are Welcome was recorded in one take, with each individual musician adding to the previous layer. There is no overdubbing on this record.” In fact, not only is there overdubbing on All Are Welcome, it is an exercise in overdubbing — but only in the most literal sense. The creation of the album was inventively collaborative, with the duo of Male (Jonathan Krohn and Benjamin Mjolsness) setting down a basic track, onto which a series of musicians individually recorded their own layer, one at a time. Think of it as asynchronous improvisation, the full effect of which is best experienced in the joyous cacophony of “Wrangler for Higher” (MP3), an oceanic noise that Glenn Branca or Michael Gordon might have dreamed up. (Out of curiosity, I corresponded with Male’s Krohn and confirmed that what’s really meant by the “no overdubbing” statement is that there were no post-production edits imposed on the live takes.)

The guest participants include Todd Mattei (guitar), Nick Butcher (tape), Mike Reed (percussion), Steven Hess (percussion), Josh Berman (that’s his cornet on “I’ll Be Standing Soon”) and Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone), as well as Bob Weston (Shellac, Mission of Burma), who mastered the project; Jeremy Lemos handled recording duties. All Are Welcome is available on vinyl and as a free download. The free download (at xrkx.net/male) also includes the vibes-enriched song “Whip” (MP3).

By Marc Weidenbaum

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