ponedjeljak, 5. kolovoza 2013.

Rashad Becker - Traditional Music of Notional Species, Vol 1 (2013)


Remekdjelo zvukovne književnosti.

Rashad Becker - PAN

At long last PAN present the radical, revelatory debut album of sonic fictions by peerless mastering engineer, sound artist and composer, Rashad Becker. Via his day job as a cutting engineer at Berlin's Dubplates & Mastering and his post-production studio, Clunk, the Syrian-born German-raised autodidact has in some respects contributed more to the shape and timbre of contemporary electronic and avant-garde music than anyone else. He's blessed with a heightened sensitivity to frequency and a love of bass and subbass which has no doubt enhanced hundreds of recordings and provided him an invaluable, hawk-like view of modern sonic aesthetics. With this in mind, the inspired architecture, dynamics and feel of 'Traditional Music Of Notional Species' can be heard as a deliberate and hyper-conscious bypassing of staid conventions in melody, harmony and meter, searching out and inhabiting the microtonal spaces between sounds with an in-depth understanding of their complex relationships and structures. Yet, far from being an avant-garde academic exercise, it provides a breathtaking richness of ambiguous human expression and emotional triggers, albeit from the periphery of human experience. His multi-tiered layers of oily quacks, slyding tones, convulsive spurts and spatial displacements present an embarrassment of fictional sonic capital, setting out a new and idiosyncratic grammar of computer music language with an inimitably exotic ancient-futuristic accent. For us it's something close to a waking dream rendered in sound, it's sincerely one of the most phantastical, far out records we've heard in a while, at once lending a gridless, human/alien aspect to the harsher sounds of say, Florian Hecker or Andre Vida, with the guile and unswerving, syncretic avant-folk vision of Ghedalia Tazartes and even the soured sensation of Korean classical music. It's one of the boldest musical statements on PAN yet, and, if like us you crave genuinely new sonic thrills, this album is an absolute must. - boomkat 

There are voices in there.
Spun microphones / clouds of insects / voices wrenched from shamanic throats /cabaret drum rolls / drowned brass sections. Mosquito trombones / cooing pigeon bubbling / depth charge timpanis buried.
These sounds do not refer to these sounds.
These sounds are moving from the front of my ears to the back of my head. From proximal intimacy to semi-described non-places. These sounds are simultaneously slow and fast – pointillist meets textural. These sounds are rough and smooth – rounded electronic tones cutting through swirls of static clouds. The repetitions here are gentle, sedately paced, but insistent – they have momentum. These circuits are autonomous, self regulating and tightly composed. These chants, dances, themes, that never outstay their welcome, are perfectly formed microworlds.
Rashad Becker’s debut album is mysterious and straightforward.
It is upfront in wanting to take a non-referential position to sound sources, while concurrently pointing to traditions outside western harmonic structures. As such, it literally synthesises outside influences and internal ‘from first principals’ sound objects. It does point unavoidably to say, musique concrète or at a pinch David Tudor, but its mastery of its own formal challenges – microworlds, development of non-referring themes, perfectly balanced frequency content – is absolute.
Using words to describe something that wants to fold in on itself, to almost disappear, seems close to futile, so we can only point to what these sounds point us towards. So:
The second side, Themes, seems immediately more tonal, though with the edges of these tones bleeding into bell-like buzzes of distortion, this still presents a complex field to unpick. What is compelling here is how the accumulated texture retains clarity as the layers progress. There is a depth of tone and frequency separation that feels warm. And that is one of the many strengths of both sides – while there are touches of bass pressure or almost acidic squelches that give it an oblique nod to techno or dub – the warmth of all the sounds here give it an ‘inside out’ feel.
Traditional Music of Notional Species is meditative and humorous – its feedback matrices spiralling inwards rather than outwards; its pings, sweeps and slides mean it is never dry or academic. It ends, appropriately, with what could almost be the sound of a tape player spluttering in its demise.

This is a thoughtful, playful record that gently demands your attention, and which rewards close listening with riches. Highly recommended! - John Boursnell

‘Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I’ is a devastating display of potential which ensures a journey unlike any you have encountered.  In the vast world of electronic music, where sounds, signifiers and gesture’s are recontextualized to a numbing degree it is increasingly rare and refreshing to encounter a release as perspective distorting as the debut full length release by Rashad Becker.  The album is a masterpiece of focussed non-referential electronic environments.  It is is both warm, alien, paranoid and exhilarating.  Sounds are stretched in the most unusual manner, foreign bodies are frequent and the structure is simply bewildering.  Split into ‘Themes and Dances’, the 8 tracks guide the listener through Becker’s brave new world.  Despite being entirely synthetic there are sounds which appear like a distortion of the world around us, on occasion ‘voice-like’ sounds are present, elsewhere there appears the sound of cicada’s, only these cicada’s are made of mercury and swim through time.  The end result is beautiful in a way only a unique work of art can be.  PAN is proud to present the outside from within.
The LP is mastered and cut by Rashad Becker at D&M, pressed on 140g vinyl. It is packaged in a pro-press color jacket which itself is housed in a silkscreened pvc sleeve with artwork by Bill Kouligas.

Rashad Becker creates precise, phantasmic computer sound designs encouraging audiences to focus their hearing. His carefully constructed, sparse improvisations, have unexpected qualities, and have been called conversational not only for his sampling of dissected human voices, but for the way these samples integrate with the timbre of his electronics. “It sounded like a long stream-of-consciousness sentence made up short syllables, electronic oohs and wahs, sections of muttering, and occasionally bickering. Whatever he does, it seems Becker has the knack of giving sound its voice.” - Scott McMillan

Rashad Becker is a craftsman first and foremost. Having worked at Berlin-based Dubplates & Mastering for well over 15 years, his CV reads like a best-of list in contemporary experimental music. Founded by Basic Channel as an optimal Kreuzberg studio back in 1995, Dubplates built a reputation for offering the very finest in audio post-production, with several leading practitioners at the controls. Throughout his stretch there, Becker has personally rustled up recordings for Kouhei Matsunga, Pantha du Prince, Kevin Drumm, Giuseppe Ielasi, Florian Hecker, Russell Haswell, Keiji Haino, Sam Shackleton, KTL, Holly Herndon, Richard Bishop, and Evan Caminiti, to name but a few. It almost goes without saying, then, that he also mastered his own debut album, Traditional Music of Notional Species, Vol 1, but that wasn’t necessarily a given. One of the most pressing questions concerning the album’s content is its influence: has the resonance of recordings mastered in the past bled through into his own work? Becker takes a communicative approach to each of his projects, and after working with some of the most fascinating musicians of the last decade, the chance that the answer should remain affirmative has made this one of the most anticipated experimental releases of the year.
In an interview with Robert Henke, Becker discusses the amount of emphasis that often rests on an album’s production — the expressive ideas behind the music frequently get overlooked by effects, dubbing, and pitch correction. The argument dictates that it’s not worth worrying about the quality of the tunes too much if there is a deep and textured mastering job to wrap the joint up in afterwards. I would be inclined to take sides with Becker in his assertion that the final product, in this case, will ultimately lack both substance and energy — essential components, which allow the listener to feel as though they are hearing an artistic concept founded on creative principles instead of another hot mess. As the saying goes, “you can’t polish a turd.”

On Notional Species, the artist’s creative vision is bound up in its aesthetic — this is music that borrows from the industrial/electro-acoustic crunk of Eli Keszler and Helm, with whom Becker has previously worked. These inflections are plied with rigorous and intensive effects to fashion a prickly, unsettling atmosphere. The results are extremely isolating and unpredictable, appearing distant in the realm of acoustic and electronic experimentation, while both approaches unite in a kind of dank, uncharted middle ground, where compressed tones and elongated bass curves take on the form of string orchestrations and manipulated fibers. It’s a peculiar combination, because the source is intentionally difficult to place, so one’s immediate reaction is to reach out to the closest-sounding likeness, which in this instance flirts nonchalantly with the bizarre: instead of heavily treated vocal samples, the body of the record feels like cylindrical metal, a hacked-up piece of guttering that’s been adapted as a wind instrument.
What’s interesting is how Becker’s technical craft bolsters the strength of the music as opposed to justifies it. Whereas he defines himself as a technician who sees the benefit in conversing with the artists he works with to explore their visions, he’s working with his own product here. These are ideas that he might have examined with other people, but they are ultimately sounds he has arrived at on his own terms, and the mastering is consequently bound up in the principle idea behind the material. The fact that Becker is tremendously skilled at formulating potent and obscure soundscapes is imperative to the recording, and it shows on playback; upon accepting the strangeness of each offering and the queer quality they possess, you begin to notice the details within them. This is particularly noticeable on a track like “Themes III,” which takes on an incredible number of layers and moods as they shift throughout its tumbling course. “Dances IV” on the other hand is harder, refined, and grounded in repetition, which makes it exceptionally tougher to digest.
What remains is an album that’s well paced, stylistically unique, and that poses more questions about how electronic music should be responded to instead of how it should be consumed. It’s an intriguing experience, one that has been brilliantly executed in the course of its evolution. Where the album falls flat is in its complete denial of an entry point — each piece is menacingly dense and alien, transcending even the harshest bombardment of noise or extreme avant improv. The music provokes a reaction that immediately calls for an exploration of its nature, as opposed to an unfiltered appreciation. But the fact that each section is difficult shouldn’t be perceived as off-putting; it’s still a rewarding listen brimming with curiosity. Becker’s method might not come directly through working with inspirational people, but through discussing artistic objectives and approaching his ideas as a consequence of sharing them. Each track is ornate, nestled in a style that’s abundant and clear, and that brings each composition to the fore alongside Becker’s distinctive knack for mastering — he might be a wizard at post-production, but on Notional Species, it’s the grand idea behind it all that takes center stage.
01. Dances I
02. Dances II
03. Dances III
04. Dances IV
05. Themes I
06. Themes II
07. Themes III
08. Themes IV

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