Clouds And Clocks: Review of Slew
I'm gonna admit that, lately, something peculiar keeps happening to me: while listening to a record, I find myself absently staring into the void, then asking myself this question: "who could be the right listener for this album?" Being aware that times have indeed changed makes it difficult for me to ask "who could possibly buy this album?", the "listener" already being an increasingly rare specimen. This thought occur to me a propos of different musical "genres", but definitely when it comes to "electronic music". On one hand, in fact, fans of the "genre" are not a few. But the trends that I increasingly see as prevailing (in a numerical sense) are those that keep an eye (or maybe two) on the dancefloor; and those that - thanks to increasingly powerful laptops - mix image and sound; both tend to negate the importance of musical research and experimentation - exactly those traits that have always represented the promise that electronic means of music making have to keep. This, in a market where the (over)abundance of available titles is definitely not demand-driven!
Not exactly a hardcore fan, but definitely more than a passer-by, I have to say that I liked this recent compilation by Thomas Dimuzio, an American musician whose recorded output had not previously been unknown to me but whom I had really appreciated for the first time with the release of Quake (1999) and Dust (2002), the two albums he recorded with "electrified drummer" Chris Cutler. Here Dimuzio demonstrated he possessed uncommon musical qualities - and fast reflexes - in a conversation where he synthesized, sampled and treated with a good sense of direction. Subtitled A Compilation Of Compilation Tracks 1990-2004, Slew assembles tracks recorded by Dimuzio for inclusion on miscellaneous CDs. Though quite some time separates the earliest tracks here from the most recent, finding a clear stylistical thread is not too difficult. Dimuzio has sampled and processed a variety of materials, all mentioned in the booklet's inner spread. Coming from the (I suppose) already familiar Transforms: 44 Nerve Events Project, Never Steven uses Doctor Nerve fragments, while the following track, Radiotraces, which starts with the easily recognizable cello played by the sadly departed Tom Cora, was originally featured in the memorial album titled Hallelujah Anyways.
To put it in a nutshell, I'd say Dimuzio is easily at his best when creating "drones", or when exploring the "elementary details" of an evolving situation. His way of assembling materials is elastic enough as to leave the listener some freedom, but not so much as to give him the whole responsibility of finding meaning in the music. Old tracks such as Lightswitch (1990), with its rare use of vocals, and Zosz ('91), are good. I also found both Usher Substart and 4 Poles, the latter with the ghostly echo of ragtime piano, quite convincing. The beautiful drones of Hinge Map Ridge and Zero Tolerance are, in a way, the peaks of the album. I was left unconvinced by the brief more rhythmic tracks that appear at the end of the album. - Beppe Colli