Review

Jeremy Keens, Ampersand Etcetera, no 2002_3, 28 février 2002

DIFFUSION i MéDIA, the Canadian electroacoustic hub (there are a few reviews lurking in back issues around here), had an earlier intersection with a different cultural axis with the final Asphodel sombient set A Storm of Drones which included a disk of empreintes DIGITALes excerpts. Now they have entered into an agreement with No Type to release disks – this compilation begins an arrangement that will see CDs and 12" singles from No Type. And No Type should need no introduction – it is (to my mind) the best web music label and a credit to the vision of David Turgeon. He has released, on a regular basis, MP3 singles (which are really multitrack eps and minialbums, 65+ to date, following earlier excursions into longer albums) that offer an eclectic range of surprising and satisfying musics. The diversity is astonishing from glitch through ambient into beaty techno and various other forms of techno – you may not like it all, but it is a wonderful musical resource and education. And I am expecting the same from this 36 track double album (which when I read that it was coming guessed it would be a ‘best of’ [not in itself a bad thing], but it is all new). The structure of the set reflects the two broad contexts of No Type: of the two disks, Bait contains the glitchy ambient, while Switch has more rhythmic melodic techno. But neither exclusively. Now, a 36 track compilation is a terror to review – too much to try and describe each track, and unfair to pick favourites, I’ll go for the impressionistic response as we move through them.

Running through Bait: droning fuzzy electro with deep slow, moody; more droning, faster and active, building, buzzy, deep noises, talking; light bubbly driving electro, good mood change; minimal tones, crackles that build and fade, sudden eruptions; complex but musical collage – layering crackling with chimes, clockwork sounds, metal tones build, fade; minimal modulated loop – old synth?, jumpy echoed; music trying to get through a crackling bed, very separated cacklefuts swaps with big tones; spacious collage of chimes (some looped to make a rhythm), thumb piano, gong, clattering metal (Harpo Marx!) and scooped pebbles, opens the cd out again; tones and unstable drum machines, builds, a break of crackles and peeps, returns; loungey pulses of electricity rhythms with faint keyboard wisps, gentle; electroacoustic machines click buzz dits, bursty; demented jazz, live drums whistles and swirls, jumpy; a slow trip through blips, scratches and thuds; building slow ambient pulsing like a breathing beast, simple piano later; noisy crackling, harsh, balanced by a smooth beat; the numbers recordings trying to emerge (eventually succeeding) from under static and through a groovy, edged techno; off-key guitar with drums, slow and surprising, piano and strings; guitar processed and looped a la Zammuto; chattering noises alternate with massed whooshes with inner subtleties.

Now into Switch disc (or is it the other way around?): rising tones weave into madness providing a disorienting opening; complex groovy techno; shifting between slow sampley, computer game rhythms, slow rolling tones – nice variation; electroacoustic playing with kitchen and other loops; processed voices, moving between lighter and darker moods, varies a lot; looped dirty D’n’B, horns later; rhythm and movement through crackles distortion noise, hidden voices; another electroacoustic playful piece – walking, accordion, pulses, bells, piano; nice breezy rapid clicks twops perky melody; choppy D’n’B; segues into clicky surface with lovely stuff going on behind; into smooth loungey, slow scrapey squiggles; mysterious and complex forward and backward tones, crackles, grows; rapid clicky cd jumps, slow piano over; tonal and complex rhythms combined; dirty noises and driving techno; edgy crackling with a distant melody to take us out.

A well constructed and nicely balanced set – there are many ‘names’ from the No Type roster, but also other voices adding breadth and interest for those familiar with the label. Generosity in positions means most tracks are short – few get beyond 6 minutes – but with enough time to display their sounds. Generous for the buyer too, as it is single-CD priced: go out and buy it.

… No Type should need no introduction — it is (to my mind) the best web music label…

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