Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Music Boxes Together

Last Saturday, I received a promo Gristleism in the mail. Designed by legendary industrial musicians Throbbing Gristle, along with FM3's Christian Viraant, the Gristleism is a little music box with a built-in speaker, 13 loops of TG's music, and controls for volume, loop selection, and pitch. Like FM3's Buddha Machines (though lacking a built-in 1/8" output jack), The Gristleism is an exercise in intriguing simplicity - the speaker obviously is not of the greatest quality, and the box is limited to playing the loops that it comes with. The pitch wheel on the Gristleism boasts twice the range of the Buddha Machine II (the first Buddha Machine did not have a pitch controller). Here's a little video I made, playing all three boxes together:

The loops are, in order of appearance - #1 "Persuasion" on the Gristleism (black), #2 "Li" on the Buddha Machine II (brown), and #6 "Xiao" on the Buddha Machine (white). This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg of how much fun it is to play around with these boxes - the range of loops and pitch controls make for loads of possibilities.

I'll be reviewing the Gristleism for PopMatters - it's turning into another feature piece, kinda like what happened with the Buddha Machine II. Look forward to it!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Initial reflections: Autechre - Oversteps

A new album from Autechre is always cause for mass celebration. I'm still not sure how the lads manage to do it, but Booth and Brown manage to deliver a beautiful new statement of emotional machine music every two or so years. March 22/23 sees the release of their 10th full-length, Oversteps.

I received a promo copy yesterday, and, shock of the new aside, we've really got something special on our hands here. Autechre's trajectory had been on a stable (though still satisfying) path, from 1998's LP5, through 2005's Untilted, their immersion in generative and algorithmic music having reached its pinnacle with 2001's superb Confield. After delivering a run of albums which successfully built on twitchy beats and dark FM synths, 2008's Quaristice was rather a curveball. Sparse in stark contract to the density and long track lengths of Untilted, Quaristice was filled with sublime little sketches. These worked very well with the slew of remixes re-versions of the material, released as the bonus disc, Quaristice (Versions), as well as the digital release series, Quaristice.Quadrange.ep.ae.

So, what to make of Oversteps, then? Well, more than ever now, Quaristice sounds like a steaming prelude record - a cool In A Silent Way to the more aggressively beautiful Bitches Brew of Oversteps. There are tracks here with the kind of ambient techno melodies that have scarce been present on an Autechre album since 1995's Tri Repetae. Where part of the thrill of Quaristice was the unmistakable sound of the duo wrestling with where to fit all the pieces, Oversteps beams with confidence; everything is fleshed out here.

The temptation is go on much, much longer, but I'm saving the more flowery phrases for my review of the album in Big Shot. I'll also be interviewing Sean Booth for BS next Sunday; look for that all to be out in March, around the same time as Oversteps itself. Lastly, beautiful packaging for this one, natch: