Musicophilia

[Full Album] Soundslike – ‘Complicity’ (2001)

Posted in Albums, Talking by Soundslike on October 22, 2008

As a break from the usual mix/compilation focus of Musicophilia, this morning I’m posting a full album.  And it’s one full album I have full confidence I’d never be sued or jailed for posting–because it’s one of the improvisational albums I recorded at the beginning of this decade.  This particular album is predominantly electronic, but too untrained (and manually created) to qualify as “IDM” or any sort of dance-rooted-music.  It’s rough, organic, sometimes a little ambient, spooky, menacing, disappointingly pretty, and despite all my intentions when I began recording, emotionally resonant above all else.

I post ‘Complicity’ simply because listening to it for the first time in a long while, it surprises me: it does seem to capture something about when it was recorded (10th-12th September, 2001) and the feeling of creeping uncertainty and desperate hope I have felt over the last eight years.  It may reflect none of that for anyone else, I don’t know.  On the eve of beginning as a people the process of healing and moving forward, while as deeply mired in the excesses and failures of our time as ever–the album feels surprisingly relevant to me, and it’s also not quite as musically trivial as I thought at the time.  I am not a musician, so this stuff was all improvised, cobbled together bit by bit with no existing framework, working on a feeling for sound alone.  Despite that fact, it’s surprisingly (annoyingly to me, at the time) song-like and listenable.  More rambling, tracklist and the download link follow the “more…”.

Sideways” (2001)

I began improvising and recording these tracks on September 10th, 2001.  My intent was to make my first “electronic” album, sans any acoustic instruments.  So with my cheap $100 Casio keyboard and a shoddy effects processor, I created two tracks that night, “Reunion” and “Sideways,” which sound somewhat “September 10th” in the context of the album.  I can’t say what “genre” of electronic music this is, because at that time I had a very limited familiarity with electronic music of any era, and I knew I couldn’t create “dance music” or anything that sounded like Kraftwerk.  I’d always lamented that my music– inevitably rooted in acoustic instruments and sans any percussive elements, since all I had was an acoustic guitar–turned out so “pretty,” even as my musical tastes had expanded far afield from the pretty folk music my mother would perform for my sister and me when I was a young child, my formative musical experience.  I was listening to jazz, fusion, hip-hop, beginning to discover post-punk: but I couldn’t reflect my would-be influences, because I simply had so little ability to imitate them.  I thought with a Casio keyboard, I could at least make something ugly.  The next day changed the whole concept of ugly.

That next day made my tiny, improvised bedroom music feel even tinier than ever, along with most everything else.  But I decided to keep recording, I thought as a distraction from the anger, sadness, confusion, fear–all of which had already been building for me since I returned from abroad in early 2001 to a U.S. that felt far different than what I’d left.  Though I had no conscious “idea” of what the music should be “about,” what started as a literal experiment in trying to ugly-up my sound inevitably took on some emotional weight.  I broke with the no-stringed-instruments rule.  I borrowed a violin, an instrument I couldn’t play in the least, and somehow coaxed some sounds from it–the track “Violence” was created in a fitful, angry bout of violin noise about 50 seconds long, which when pitch-shifted down a couple octaves and stretched by about 500% took on a surprisingly musical feeling.  I even forced my Casio, as solid-state as it comes, to become scratchy, messy through a haze of effects and reverb.  I eventually broke the effects processor, yanking the cords in and out to create a primitive beat from a preset on the keyboard.  A vintage analogue ARP left in my bedroom by a dear friend eventually beckoned, and amazed me by suddenly becoming a polyphonic, chord-playing instrument, though I was certain it was designed to be monophonic–still not sure how that happened, but I couldn’t let it pass.  And I eventually succumbed to a sombre, spooky guitar on the central track of the album, “Sympathizer”.  But even as my initial purpose was fading, and the rules were falling to shambles, I felt like in my tiniest of ways, I was saying something about what was going on better than I was likely to say with words.  The personal response to something so massive may be selfish, especially for someone so far from events and more or less buffered and secure.  But it was an honest expression of a single point of view, however insignificant.

There’s no way ‘Complicity’ says anything thoughtful about that time.  It was created in pure response, wholly visceral.  But listening to it on the eve of moving on from at least one of the disasters which befell the U.S. in the last eight years, it does ring emotionally true, for me.  It doesn’t possess deep gravity, but it does feel lonely, fragile, angry, messy, and honest.  Even though I’d set out with the intent to create music that was less traditionally “pretty” or “emotional,” I don’t regret that it wasn’t the start of a career in coldly experimental or hotly visceral sound-sculpture.  I don’t regret that what I create with as little involvement from my conscious thought-processes as possible, what I try to let come forth from my fingers, what I want to respond to directly with my ears, nevertheless expresses the tugs and jumps of my chest.  The album ends pastorally, seeming to literally step back in time as a Cage-lite wall-of-violins (not that I would’ve known at the time) turns into a creaking, solitary voice as though emanating from a dusty 78-spinning Victrola, and is followed with unadulterated crickets.  I don’t know what it means that I literally ended up so far from where I wanted to begin in the course of three very strange days.

Soundslike – ‘Complicity’ (2001)

01  “Complicity”  [5:59]
02  “Reunion”  [2:50]
03  “Simplicity”  [1:54]
04  “Violence”  [5:09]
05  “Beta”  [2:56]
06  “Sideways”  [4:45]
07  “Orange”  [1:25]
08  “Sympathizer”  [10:19]
09  “Autumnal”  [2:53]
10  “Goodnight”  [2:07]

Total Duration – 40:17

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11 Responses

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  1. jack said, on October 22, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Your best… belive me.. i own them all..

    and i still have the original cover..

  2. Soundslike said, on October 22, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Thank you, Jack. And I hope you caught the props for the synth–was it an Arp, or am I mis-remembering? And was it monophonic, or is that apocryphal?

    I wish I had one of the original covers, those were fun to make.

  3. jack said, on October 22, 2008 at 7:13 am

    seriously… so brilliant.. you have no idea what this record does for me. it’s one of my biggest musical influences.

  4. jack said, on October 22, 2008 at 7:14 am

    it is an arp… and i do believe it is monophonic..

  5. Soundslike said, on October 22, 2008 at 7:17 am

    You’re making me blush, man. You were always so encouraging, I really appreciate it. I want to try to make music again, but I only have an acoustic guitar and a melodica, these days. Did I ever get to you that deconstruction thing of “Full of Blue-Green Doubt” I did in 2004 or 2005?

    Listening to the second part of “Sympathizer,” where the Arp is featured, it’s definitely at least duophonic–I don’t see how that was possible, but I know I was playing it all at once, not overdubbed. . . I’d love to read about how that can happen. Do you still have that thing? Did you ever try running other instruments through its input?

  6. jack said, on October 23, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    please get me that stuff.. you showed it to me ages ago.. the only thing i have that’s not from original recordings is the remix with Matt Stan.

  7. jack said, on October 23, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    i never knew which part you used it on.. oh wow!!! that part is soo beautiful.

    unfortuanately that thing is in a million pieces back in little rock.. i cant wait to go home and try to fix it up for use.. i got real depressed about making music for sometime and lost track of the arp for awhile..

    super excited about getting it back.

  8. philT said, on October 28, 2008 at 12:44 am

    there’s obviously a “music for films” empathy throughout – which is never a bad thing. lots of great sections and a nice bit of scratchy-ness as well. you can’t beat acoustic instruments if they’re treated nastily.

  9. Soundslike said, on October 28, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Wow, thanks so much, Phil! That means a lot to me, coming from a real musician like yourself. I’m not sure I’d even heard ‘Music for Films’ when I recorded this one, but something like that or early Cluster or Tangerine Dream, but a little more rooted, less kosmich is all I’ve ever been able to think it would fit in with. Really, means a lot that you’d take a listen.

  10. […] the second full album (and a remix project) of my own work.   Like the first album posted, ‘Complicity,’ ‘The Irish Sea’ was improvised by adding one extemporous layer of sound to […]

  11. […] transitional time and place in life.  If you have not heard ‘The Irish Sea‘ and ‘Complicity,’ I’d recommend you start with those more fully-formed works (previews of which have […]


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