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Three Tracks Beat as One

Over six years passed between an evening in late January 1997, when Colin Bradley slow-burned the air during a Manchester, England, concert performance, and early 2003, when he made recordings from that show available on CD for the first time. It’s a lovely EP, even before you pop it in your CD player — a modest 3″ CD, slipped into a full-size, bleach-white, corrugated-cardboard CD sleeve, looped by a glossy-paper band displaying Bradley’s prolific moniker, Dual; the set’s title, Pace (CEE); and the terse titles of its three tracks, “auxpin,” “chpstk” and “pyrrhic.” (All three were performed with the assistance of Sean Reynard, and the third is co-credited to Julian Coope.) Pace is three tracks of industrial ambience for which the guitar serves as the primary sound source, that being Dual’s code of honor, its modus operandi. On other recordings, more recent ones, Dual has milked the guitar for its soft curves, for the way both the guitar strings and the instrument’s feedback have an inherently natural sound to them — the cycles of the sine waves, the hazy edges and ambiguous shapes that evade all but the most patient and craft-minded of digital synthesists. Bradley finds so many sounds in his guitar, the tender pizzicato as “pyrrhic” fades out, the scratches that irritate the opening track’s dub-like zone. Pace is three tracks in name only. Track one, “auxpin,” doesn’t fade into “chpstk” so much as bleed into it, its thought-level buzz continuing on as a somewhat lifelike beep and a distant, coastal hum become prominent. And “chpstk” doesn’t fade into track three so much as it sounds, at the end of track two, as if the performers were cleaning up after themselves in preparation for their “pyrrhic” close. There’s a smattering of loose noises, of objects moved around, of small occurrences that cannot all have been pre-planned. Fans of Han Bennink’s brand of “European free improvisation” will hear resemblances to his favor for wild chance clutter, the everyday percussion of dropped objects and nervous activity. Fans of typical electronic ambient music may be confused by the theatricality of these recordings, especially the way “chpstk” sounds like footsteps, like tentative movement. If so, “pyrrhic” offers some respite in its gently layered long tones, its high-pitched gossamer. But the three tracks should be heard together, because their various elements complement each other. Pace is reportedly the first in a series of three, and the next two are eagerly awaited.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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