Electro MP3 EP

EBoss‘ three-song Electronic Brainscape EP opens, on “Elektro Body Music,” with a train’s distant thudding and a swivelling line of static. Though the heavy electro that follows may never achieve — let alone aspire to — the minimalist piquancy of this opening, the set earns repeated listens with its mindlessly thick beats, which have the gushy firmness of a Nerf football, and its occasional dissolution into abstraction. That initial track distinguishes itself from straight four-to-the-floor electro thanks to a midsection that’s nearly as self-immolating as the average laptop punk set, but minus the hand-me-down nihilism. With a keening overhead beep, it sounds like Carnival held in an eight-bit arcade. The EP may very well take its cues from videogames, for as full as the sound is, EBoss (aka Eric Bertrand) has a tendency to switch suddenly between thematic segments in a jerky, off-the-downbeat manner that suggests a player moving from one level to the next. Electronic Brainscape is among the recent free downloadable MP3 sets from the Microbio netlabel, at microbiorecords.net.

Betalounge Stream

There’s a backlog of downloads coming soon in the Downstream, but for the time being, here’s another recommended audiostream: the latest on betalounge.com celebrates the site’s relaunch, with sets by Metrologic, 370, Picadub and Millhouse. Besides being a longstanding home to online electronic-music streams, with an emphasis on dub, Betalounge has several things to recommend itself in its new format: (1) a searchable archive (pop Peanut Butter Wolf, Stacey Pullen or Roni Size in the window) and (2) links within the new audiostreams that allow you to jump to the performer you desire.

Laptop Busman’s Holiday

DSP Holiday is an aural photo album from a true busman’s holiday: three accomplished electronic musicians holed up together in hotels and studios, doing collaboratively that which they generally do individually and professionally, at home, on their lonesome. HAT (to whom the album is attributed) consists of three men: the H is for Haruomi “Harry” Hosono (veteran of Yellow Magic Orchestra, and an early pop-electronic figure), the A is Atom Heart (born Uwe Schmidt, and so prolific that he maintains an LP crate just for his collection of pseudonyms) and the T is Testu Inoue (an accomplished synthesist and microsounder in his own right). Honoso originally released this seven-track album on his Daisyworld Discs label in the late ’90s, and now Otodisc has re-released it for wider consumption.

The holiday theme apparently inspired the trio, because the record is a collection of off-world cha-chas (“Shinjyuku Photoshop”) and retro-futurist garden-party tunes. A track like “Digidelic” may start off with a fuzzy mash of crossed circuits, but eventually someone flips a switch and a dance beat kicks in, stumbling to remain upright. You can almost here a voice cry, “Hey, who spilled their Mai Tai in my iBook?” but it’s all in good fun. “Malihini Mele” similarly starts in a gray zone, all buzz — but the static soon reveals itself to be nothing other than surf, and then a ukulele (yes, a ukulele) comes into focus. As if embarrassed by their mutual enjoyment, HAT felt it necessary to tag a few minutes of hyper-delicate microsonics onto the end of “Mele,” perhaps to prove to their accountants that they were actually working. But if you hold this jewel box up to your ear, you’ll hear the surf, too.

This album review appeared, in slightly different form, in the autumn 2003 issue of e|i magazine.

Slocore Beethoven Stream

Leif Inge‘s “9 Beet Stretch” is getting deserved press for its deep-listening approach to the golden oldies, notably in the New York Times this weekend (“Beethoven’s Ninth Around the Clock“). Inge has taken Beethoven‘s Ninth Symphony and slowed it down so that it takes a full 24 hours to hear it. If the work isn’t being auditioned at a loft space near you, check it out online at notam02.no/9. A double DVD release on the Table of the Elements label is reportedly due out later this year.

Matmos MP3 Samples

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. When life hands you a rat infestation, you purchase a trap, you set up high-fidelity audio-recording equipment — all the better to snag the rattling of the mechanism, and the feral squeal of varmint fear — and you then transform those found sounds into heady, sample-laced prog rock. Well, you do if you’re Matmos, the conceptual-art-minded electronic duo from San Francisco, who have built pop music from such unlikely sources as Rhinoplasty surgery and squeaking Latex.

This infestation scenario is the subject of Rat Relocation Project, Matmos’ new two-track release from the Chicago-based Locust Music record label. Drew Daniel, one half of Matmos, explains further: “Since we already had a pet rat, the prospect of trying to kill one rat while feeding another struck us as intolerable hypocrisy, so we bought a non-lethal ‘Have-a-Heart Trap.'” One track on Rat Relocation Project is the raw field recording, and the other is Matmos’ transformation of that documentary tape into music. The full-length release is reportedly close to half an hour in length, but a one-minute sample of the field recording and a two-and-a-half-minute segment of the resulting music (think of it as a Buddy Holly-length pop song) are posted on the label’s website (here). This isn’t pure musique concrete, by any means; the rhythmic squeak and the high-pitched whine are just individual elements amid a thick, rollicking tune, with a rich bass line and occasional lapses into sci-fi effects.

Thanks to Matmos, we now know how the caged rat sings. Oh, and what happened to Relocation Project‘s featured artist? “The following morning we took the rat to a wealthy suburban neighborhood,” says Daniel, “and set it free.”