When is a netlabel not a netlabel? When its first releases largely predated the term’s rise in popularity, and when those occasional at best releases appear less as virtual albums than as unexpected epistles in sound from exotic lands, all of which is to say: when the label’s name is “term,” the free-download arm of the 12k Records, which is run by musician Taylor Deupree.
Just up is a three-track set, 0/the/r, by 0/r, the act consisting of Nosei Sakata (aka *0) in collaboration with Richard Chartier. Each of the tracks is taken from an out-of-print collection. Thus, while meatspace record labels are increasingly hip to using free MP3s as a loss leader to attract potential customers, term is employing it as an archival technology.
The first entry, “trackb” (MP3), taken from a 2004 edition of Contemporary Music Review, has a spongy feel, with springy sounds fluctuating below a high-pitched wave (caution: the wave can be irritating, the aural equivalent of burning the skin on the top of your mouth with a hot slice of pizza). The second, “untitled…” (MP3), off Minima-List (List, 2002), is an exercise in microsonic stereoscopic play, with tiny pitter patters and short bursts of sounds threading around in 3D space. And the third, “untitled” (MP3), from Between Two Points, released in 2001 on 12k, makes the second track sound utterly mellifluous by comparison, so blank is this one’s canvas. The delicacy of these latter two is quite striking. More info at 12k.com/term.
It’ll be interesting to track the response to Alta Infidelidad‘s new release on the Thinner netlabel, Cactus y Volcanes (thinner.cc). Will it appeal to fans or detractors of the sort of music that Thinner usually traffics in, a realm of gently percolating minimal techno that for all its attention to detail would, often as not, sound right at home in a fashionable boutique, or backing up a stylish TV advertisements that aim to conflate high-minded consumerism with philosophical repose. What distinguishes Cactus y Volcanes is how despite initial appearances, it’s minimal techno constructed from broken beats. There’s nothing wrong with your MP3 player. It’s just been highjacked and taken to the outer limits of what some techno fans might find palatable. And by doing so, it meets fans of experimental music more than half way: a measure doesn’t go by that doesn’t seem ready to disrupt its own locomotion, a particulate sound doesn’t enter the stereo field without contributing to a dizzying haze.
Late last month, the No Type label reappeared following an extended absence with not one but six new releases, the immediate highlight being a tribute to musique concrete figure Francis Dhomont (see the February 24 Disquiet Downstream entry). Also among the releases was a three-track document of a live prepared-CD performance by Ensemble Camp, a group effort led by by David Turgeon and also featuring A_dontigny, Erick D’Orion, Christophe Havard and Hugues Germain. While the audio has that distant quality of second- and third-hand sound, the montages that Ensemble Camp produces are probably enabled by the slight echo, which allows the disparate sonic elements, considerable in their range, to overlap and meld. Listen as snapshot vocals collide with dank rhythms, building up to a sudden silence that’s all sudder and awe. The first two tracks deal with elements associated with pop and industrial music, all beats and melodic cues. But the final one, “Evocation de la jeune artiste en deesse des apparences” (MP3), is built almost entirely from string sections of orchestral and chamber CDs, cut’n’pasted into a dense arrangement for an imaginary symphony. Get all three at notype.com.
Vancouver, Canada-based Scott Morgan, who records as Loscil, has uploaded a dozen stunningly beautiful drones and drone extractions to the netlabel known simply as One (one.dot9.ca), under the general heading stases. Some of the tracks, like “biced” (MP3), have a slight pulse that suggests they might veer into minimal techno, though they never do. Others, like “micro hydro” (MP3), are too vibrant, too ecstatic, to really be called drones, and bring to mind the otherworldly noodlings of Louis and Bebe Baron. The best, like the elegant opening cut, “cotom” (MP3), are so refined that you’ll just want to loop ’em forever. Loscil is best known for his albums on Kranky, the latest of which is due out in May. More info at loscil.com.
Asher composes music that’s a kind of sonic equivalent to our colloquial understanding of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal, in that the more attention you pay to it, the more it changes. Whereas with most music, the louder you play it, the more it fills the room you’re in, with Asher’s music, as evidenced on two recent netlabel releases (at earlabs.org and con-v.org), the higher you turn the volume knob, the more the music seems to dissipate, as if by increasing the loudness you’re tearing the music’s fragile fabric to shreds.
Both releases consist of a trio of tracks, none shorter than 11 minutes, one closing in on 20. It’s immersive music, but of the shallow-pool variety. Still, as our moms warned us, you can drown in an inch of water. And Invariably the Blue, the release on Con-v, could be a series of field recordings from abandoned industrial sites, where only the most essential activities are left running, and even then only at maintenance level. These aren’t drones, in that they’re inherently rhythmic, it’s just that those rhythms are so microscopic and quasi-subaural that they take on a transparent quality.
Only as a matter of contrast do the three untitled compositions on Asher’s Earlabs release come across as organic and varied, with more diversity packed into the 17-minute third track (“1/6/04”) than into the nearly 40 minutes of And Invariably the Blue. Asher describes his process in an email to Jos Smolders, head of Earlabs, that serves as that release’s liner notes: “there is a constant textured sound and then other sounds which come in and sort of rise out of the texture.” Of course, the extent of these variations is purely relative. The sounds are of the sort (twitchy little noises, halos of synthesis, distant rumbling) that could easily be drowned out by a microwaving burrito or a neighbor’s viewing of a sports event.