Download Reviews

The Anonymous Zone Pt.3

July 5, 2012

Free Download
Another Timbre

And then so to the third and final set of four pieces that make up the initial launch of Another Timbre’s Anonymous Zone series of free downloads. Writing about these pieces of music has been really difficult. Last night I was so tired I was near to passing out, having been up at 4AM for work, but the exhaustion only amplified the difficulty to be found in writing about music that cannot be identified back to an owner. I have found myself settling into ideas of who things may be by, some of which I am now sure I wasn’t correct about, and have been questioning my own ability to identify instruments. The usual comfort zone of hearing music in line with liner notes and instrument descriptions isn’t there, and we end up just listening to music as raw sounds, disembodied from personalities or history. Identification or comparison then becomes a natural response to the music, which I guess it does anyway quite often, but here these concerns rapidly seem to find their way to the forefront of my considerations, even when I am determined that they won’t.

So the ninth piece in the series is 02/01/13J, a relatively calm yet mostly devoid of silence ten minutes of what sounds like solo analogue electronics of some kind, perhaps a simple modular synth, perhaps something more raw besides. There then long, held tones throughout, and smaller, grittier little bits of toneless abstraction flitting in and out. I think its just a solo piece, and I could draw up a list of a dozen or so likely candidates, but I don’t have a clue who it could actually be. Overall its a pleasant enough track, with plenty happening but with enough restraint and compositional sense to position it all patiently and intelligently. There is a lack of drama or spark of intrigue in there though that lets the piece sit happily as just a bit of inoffensive distraction, but I’m not sure I’d want to hear the same piece too many times in succession.

There then follows another electronic sounding work, 02/01/13K that opens with streams of teeming data that sounds like maybe it began life as a field recording before being treated heavily until just a dense, glitchy mass remains. The interesting thing here, not knowing anything about how the recording was made is the question of whether this is a recording then filtered through technology, or just technology fighting (nicely) with itself. I think its just one musician’s work again, but really who knows. I’m not a big fan of the first half of the piece I must say. The heavily phased, impossible to easily identify, sometimes voice-like sounds feel generic once pushed so hard with analogue technology, and perhaps a little like the previous track it all gets a bit sludgy and familiar, but then after a momentary lull around the middle of the piece much more happens, and its clear that some field recordings sit at the core of the piece, treated to the point of complete abstraction. Gradually the track moves into more spacious areas with soft crackles interrupted by sudden metallic crashes and much more in the way of events occur, pulling the piece into much more interesting and original areas.

02/01/13L is a work for piano that gradually becomes distorted and softened digitally until just warm continuous sidetone like feedback exists. Its all very pretty and delicate, opening with slow, semi melodic codas that seem to begin to loop in the background and repeat, all chiming notes tinkling away. As the piece progresses it is as if the pianist stops playing and lets software take over, gradually flattening out the sounds until a piano smoothie is all that remains. The obvious name I think of in this area has to be Sebastian Lexer, but the music here does not sound very much like anything he has done before- too simple in many ways and as it sounds essentially composed I don’t think it would fit with something he would do, though the software processes used do seem to be similar in style to his piano+ set-up. I know of course that Lexer probably has nothing to do with this and that I am miles off of the mark regarding how the music was put together, but that is what springs to mind on listening this evening.

The final piece of this first batch of a dozen anonymous tracks is a trumpet piece, I think another solo, and I think without any electronics, though as many of the sounds here fly off into Axel Dorner-esque extended technique, all growling and breathy rushes, close miked recording has helped to roughen up the sound a bit. I don’t think it Dorner we hear, perhaps Matt Davis, perhaps someone less well known, but the same feeling of vibrancy and of pushing the simple trumpet beyond where it was designed to be. The piece roars and purrs its way through blocks of sound placed carefully so as to give the track a sensation of being built up slowly in sections. As it progresses it becomes clear that we are listening to a live recording, or at least a recording interrupted somewhat by the surrounding environment. The emergency siren that passes by the recording space near the end of the track sounds like a British ambulance from the late nineties, so given these pieces were all recorded quite recently maybe this track originates from somewhere else in Europe. Its a nice piece anyway, one of several in this collection that I would rather had lasted longer and been allowed to develop further.

So the Anonymous Zone is a great idea, and a real challenge to anyone willing to really share their thoughts  on the music it contains. I have no doubt that my thoughts on the pieces usually fall wide of the mark, and in doing so highlight my own prejudices/likes/failings, but the exercise in undertaking these reviews has been a rewarding one for me personally. I try not to read liner notes or press releases when I first listen to CDs I get sent, but this experience has shown me how important they are to my normal processes, how reliant I am on the traditional systems we have for sharing information about music, and how my approach to listening changes dramatically when these are taken away. A great project anyway, and one that will doubtlessly challenge a lot of people.

Comments (3)

  • simon reynell

    July 5, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Thanks so much for doing this, Richard. It’s certainly as exposing for critics who are brave enough to take it on as it is for the musicians who have submitted pieces. As you say, “the usual comfort zone…. isn’t there, and we end up just listening to music as raw sounds.”
    So far I’ve had lots of feedback about the concept (which seems to have struck a chord with many people), but little about the particular pieces, so it’s good to hear your thoughts. The musicians know that whatever responses they get will be unusually honest, without the usual polite, diplomatic filtering, but though that will be tough on occasions, it will also be valuable. So anyone else who has listened to some of the pieces, please do email your thoughts to the comments board on The Zone:

  • Richard Pinnell

    July 5, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Thanks Simon. As I emailed you earlier, this project was exceptionally difficult for me, troublingly so…

  • billphoria

    July 7, 2012 at 3:12 am

    I don’t care for free downloads,whatsoever -it adds to the meaningless glut of ‘free’ music,and adds to its depreciation…

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