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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Yasunao Tone, Talibam!, Sam Kulik - Double Automatism [Karl Records - 2015]

Yasunao Tone, Talibam! and Sam Kulik have joined forces for a three way collaborative album titled "Double Automatism".  I'm unfamiliar with these musicians, aside from having heard Yasunao Tone's "Solo For Wounded CD" years ago, an album I'd describe as grating distorted digital refuse, closer to the most abrasive sounds accidentally generated by malfunctioning equipment than a composed piece with human thought behind it.

This album isn't much different, comprised primarily of shrill high frequency chunks of bit crunched static in constant chaotic modulation, yet limited to a narrow palette of textures.  It sounds not unlike the sound of an old modem connecting to the internet, although a lot more relentless and aggressively shifting.

The rectangular chunks or 'grains' into which the noise is segmented suggest granular synthesis, and the digital pure tones and basic waveforms at the core of these distortion blocks suggest the use of generative techniques and programming languages like C Sound and Max, as used in the music found on the Raster Noton label. 

Frantic sample and hold spirals of rapidly modulating speed create a profoundly dissonant landscape of mathematically randomized frequency.  The stormy freeform undulations in which the noise appears separate it from the IDM-like repetitious structures of many digital electronic avant garde pieces.  This is more like a violent free jazz improvisation that happens to be performed in the sterile, disconnected palette of digitally sourced noise.

Listening to the album for more than a couple minutes quickly induces fatigue, as the digital noise is bright, sharp, fierce, immediate, and close to the listener's ear, with no reverb or filtration to soften it.  The panning is quite clever and interesting, bordering on three dimensional.  Many complex morphing arpeggiations, and evocative colorful synthetic textures can be heard shifting beneath Yasunao Tone's shrill din, but to my ears he is most certainly mixed far too loud, and the other members' contributions are generally overshadowed.

The album starts to get really interesting a few minutes into side two, when a trombone begins playing long tones over the noise, resolutely smooth cathartic dwells meant for some alleyway, almost oblivious to the noise, adding a sorely lacking sensitive dimension to the sound.  After a minute or two, this round acoustic sound recedes into the nasty squalls of noise again, never satisfyingly blended with the noise or used to develop some kind of momentum to the scribbled mayhem.

I appreciate the unforgiving frenzy of this recording to some degree, the intense clarity and cutting glass crispness of its texture.  Unapologetically, it reaches for transhuman psychedelia with a devastatingly bright and abrasive palette, a frighteningly unsympathetic and often murderously emotionless sound.  I appreciate its strobe-like restless and intentional maniacal ugliness.

However, I had difficulty listening to the full recording even a single time, and it's only a short 35 minutes.  It is so abrasive, alienating and fatiguing that it's unlikely I'll ever feel up for it.  Furthermore, a lot of textural beauty and creativity from the other members of this ensemble, Sam Kulik and Talibam!, has been masked by the impossibly sharp, stabbing onslaught of Yasunao Tone.  Surely, this album is someone's cup of tea, but I feel the types sounds found here, undoubtedly the most coldly damaging type of sound texture in existence, would have been better off complimented with some amount of space or development to the compositions, and a little more care with respect to mixing.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Josh Landry
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