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Review - Dopplereffekt - Calabi Yau Space

Dopplereffekt - Calabi Yau Space (Rephlex)

Arpanet - Inertial Frame (Record Makers)

As has been for of all of Gerald Donald’s recent LPs, a big criticism from stalwart lovers of convention-hugging electro is something like ‘where are the beats?’ Well, if you’ve stayed the course, you’ll know already that these superficially ‘beat less’ LPs are pulsating with all sorts of rhythms (and there are always a few tracks with ‘beats’ for those who can’t live without ‘em - see further down).

Try these ‘beat-less’ rhythm tracks: ‘Mirror Symmetry’ On Calabi… chains together an undulating pattern in a droning solution. Once you recognize that the ambience which book-ends each refrain, is following classic ‘call and response’ protocol, you’re as mad as the rest of us. To double-underline the ‘beat-less-still-includes-beats’ point, the notes in the arp (yes, arpeggios are ubquitous on these LPs) in ‘Hypersurface’ on Calabi… are tweaked so that their sharp attack sounds like percussion anyway. I challenge you not to nod your head at least….Admittedly if you do, you risk being perplexed when that track self destructs and transforms into another theme towards the end. Patterns are good, and patterns are anathema, it seems. The standout in this category for me is ‘Schwarzchild Radius’. Its sequence (originating from a string sample?) is so eroded by distortion, gated ambient bursts, etc - that it verges on - dare I say it - organic.

It’s arguable that it’s in these less percussive dimensions that the artist has actually been at his best in recent times: in full, spectacular, dot-matrix-image-evoking, arps-which-sound-like-Knight Rider-backed-by-scary-choral-robots…mode. (Try ‘Universe Oscillation’ on Inertial Frame. Or for added over-processed spoken parts, ‘Grosvater Paradoxon’.)

In fact, with Inertial Frame appearing as an attempt to merge the most extreme aspects of Donald’s recent exploration of the farther reaches of the tonal galaxy, with the light of 808s whose rays reach us from many light years ago, the ‘real-electro-sounding’ tracks on Inertial… like ‘Axis of Rotation’, are perhaps relatively speaking, the weakest. On the other hand, ‘Zero Volume’ with it’s ringing dial-up modem pattern and pulsing, protruding, bass sequence, under the words ‘Singularity, singularity’ surely blurs the lines between any real electro/not-real-electro dichotomy in a similar way to how the quantum theme blurs the distinction between real and surreal.

Still for those who insist on ‘beats’, Inertial Frame also reaches ‘Chandrasekhar’s Limit’, a 4/4 track with eerie everything: mathematically quantized arp, wailing digital drone, overlaid on a fear-inducing tide of sub. Then ‘No Boundary Condition’s staccato kick, signature amorphous chromatic FM cycles, and wide ambiance are perhaps the tightest intersection we’ll get of the old and new worlds.

So by the time you reach Calabi Yau Space, the ‘where are the beats?’ contention can seem redundant - almost laughable in fact (partly because it’s not strictly true.)

Calabi Yau…thematically oscillates a little more obtrusively than the other recent LPs - but guess what? To me, this is not because of any greater resonance between the artist’s now customary parallelism on these LPs: music + advanced science (or technology) - but just because the pieces on Calabi… achieve a cohesiveness and the track order makes sense: it really flows. Admittedly, this is at least partly achieved by occasionally dispensing with track divisions. So, whilst ‘Hyperelliptic Surfaces’ for instance, clocks in on paper around 12 minutes, it is in fact, at least 3 distinct, albeit connected movements. Like much on Calabi… it starts off with corrupted strings from a feature still showing in some abandoned automatic cinema on Grava 4. Then, in bursts one of those discordant multifarious disorientations often found on these recent LPs, which introduces the main stately chromatic precession. When I hear these arp songs, I tend to think of elegantly rotating space stations, a la ‘2001…’, rather than head-rotating theories of stationary space – what do you think of?
But then I like the intriguing physics lessons embedded in these LPs. Were it not for the all too deadpan irony which seeps through at times (the vocal in ‘Event Horizon’ for instance is so grave and haunting, it’s hilarious!) Gerald Donald might have been due some sort of an award for popularizing science to science-dullards like me. Still, if you took away the track titles and released them in a blank sleeve, then what? Would the music still make you think of these advanced scientific themes anyway? Hardly, I would guess. So in the end, these themes are as super-cool as they’re superfluous.

I suspect these tones, this discordance, this new software-induced astringency, their fear and tension, are a pure enough abstraction and ultimately a sufficiently avant futurism already, without the need for association with these wonderfully insane theories of time and space. The obia in this tracks prevails over the science; their atmospheres all the more effective in their apparent aim to alienate and perturb, partly because they’re no longer created from ‘natural’ analogue noise. Who needs science when you’ve got a software synth?

Ken Odeluga


Record Makers 

Record Makers Myspace 

Calabi Yau Space 

Inertial Frame of Reference 

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