We get it: we don’t get it.
Our true understanding and knowledge of music, composition, art – any subject you can name, really – rises to the level of sub-dilettante, and only just. We are the offspring of resignation, our personal formats forged not in the fires of creative liberation but in the dense logic of escape, manifested in a youth spent drinking warm swill from twelve-ounce cans, slumped and slack-jawed in the back seats of Japanese cars hidden in American suburban parking lots, “Show No Mercy” offering persistent background ambient noise (while still occasionally hearing the chorus to “More Than A Feeling” and thinking, “That’s kinda fucking cool.”).
So, we get it – we don’t get it.
Luciano Berio got it. He said the following in 1993:
“The increasing diversity of the forms of musical consumption, the evolution of techniques and audiences, and the consequent instability of possible points of reference are the product, to a certain extent, of the available means of recording, reproducing, and conserving music. Such is the quantity of noise – actual and virtual – around us, that it cannot be made the object of methodological analysis. It is not so much a musical phenomenon but a phenomenon of musical amnesia that has nothing to do with any musically valuable territory we are interested in exploring.
“Through new technologies, one can enter new acoustic and musical directions. Already in the 1950s, Karlheinz Stockhausen, with Zietmasse, Gruppen, Kontakte, and the related theoretical apparatus (wie die Zeit vergeht, ‘how time passes’), was looking for an extreme, and often paradoxical, conceptual homogeneity among qualitative and quantitative sound dimensions, among time proportions, frequency, and timbre, among micro- and macrophenomena and forms, in the attempt to reach a quasi-natural, quasi-divine, total fusion of all possible qualitative and quantitative parameters. We know, however, that in nature every morphogenesis has a molecular basis, while in music – vocal and instrumental – the integration of large and small-scale phenomena is never innocent because the phenomena have no absolute values. Through the new computer-assisted technologies the composer deals with, so to speak, ‘molecular’ digitized sound dimensions where everything can be formed and transformed, where anything can become anything else. However, this fascinating field of possibilities is also very risky, when the computer loses contact with the specificity of the musical matter.”
We don’t get it, but we do have a desire to get it, and we do tend to know what we like. What we really, really like (and on occasion, trick ourselves into believing we get) are the two Guardian Alien albums that we own and worship, which makes other music made by the two principal aliens of Guardian Alien of tremendous interest to us.
“Xe” (from Northern Spy Records) is the most recent and perhaps most bewildering album yet released by Zs, and the first to include the drumming skills of Greg Fox. Calling Greg Fox a “drummer” feels a little like calling Count Dracula a “goth dude with a funny accent,” so we’ll defer to simply calling him an alien. And alien sounds abound throughout “Xe,” perhaps none more compelling than the album’s centerpiece, the brilliant, twelve-and-a-half minute “Corps.”
As solid an example as you’re every likely to find of Berio’s afore-mentioned reference to the quantity of noise that “cannot be made the object of methodological analysis,” “Xe” brings the noise that makes us reject any and all analysis, and instead merely wish we could take a long walk across the rings of Saturn with Albert Ayler.
Meanwhile, Fox’s fellow Guardian Alien, Alexandra Drewchin, has just released her debut full-length solo album under the Eartheater moniker on Hausu Mountain Records, entitled “Metalepsis” and rightly pegged by the label as “an intensifying murk of cyborg psychedelia.” Listen to “Homonyms” one hundred times and call us in the morning.
Could there be a better representation of “the attempt to reach a quasi-natural, quasi-divine, total fusion of all possible qualitative and quantitative parameters”? Simply put, “Metalepsis” is an astonishing, strange and blindingly creative album, both intensely personal and undeniably universal, even (or especially) when capturing the sound of universes collapsing, universes unhinged and unburdened by the bondage of the ten-thousand things, universes getting born together. Highest possible recommendation.
“Xe” by Zs is available now from Northern Spy Records.
“Metalepsis” by Eartheater is available now through Hausu Mountain Records.