English soundsculptor Mark Fell debuted with the digital rhythmic experiments
of Ten Types of Elsewhere (Line, 2004), mostly conceived for sound
SND was Mat Steel and Mark Fell.
They learned their digital ware with the jarring rhythmic effects of
Makesnd Cassette (1998),
Stdio (2000) and then applied it to Tenderlove (Mille Plateaux, 2002), a
phantasmagorical montage of minimal techno, hip hop, glitch and dub.
The triple-LP 4,5,6 (2008) was a compendium of what the duo had
learned over a six-year hiatus.
SND's Atavism (2009) is an austere and skeletal work that limits the
"music" to rapid-fire patterns of digital dry metallic staccato pings,
little more than discharges of beats. The trick lies in making them grow
and evolve like organic matter; and they often grow to exhibit a quasi-melodic
quality that certainly was not in the premises.
The initial syncopation of 08:22:61 feels as random as it gets, but
soon a logic begins to appear, and the listener's ear evokes
a samba, a movie soundtrack from the 1960s, a dubstep dance...
If 04:29:70 does sound like a bombardment of pure industrial clangor,
and the timbres of 03:32:44 hark back to
the bouncing marble balls of 07:09:73 reveal affinities with
Steve Reich's gradual process of
The brutish pounding 04:29:59 finally admits an extra element:
some clipped drones that provide the counterpoint to the irregular beat.
On the other hand, the frantic gunshots of 09:05:03 is not interested
in development but simply in choreography, and, in a sense, it transposes to
rhythm the scratching turntable improvisation of a dj.
Mark Fell's solo albums
UL8 (Editions Mego, 2010) and
Multistability (Raster-Noton, 2010)
were complementary experiments. The former indulged in free-form abstract
noise, the latter explored how order emerges from chaos.
Multistability is another ingenious application of his pointillistic
technique like SND's Atavism. However ingenious, this one is too
fragmented to yield the same kind of magic.
The palette might be broader, but it remains a palette in all the pieces
that are too short. The exceptions are the longer pieces, such as
Multistability 3, in which Fell produces the same "metabolic" effect
of SND's contemporary works.
Multistability 6-A, again, feels like the rhythmic transposition of
wild turntable scratching.
Almost a melody surfaces from Multistability 2-AA, and
Multistability 10-A balances the uneven pulsing with proto-melodic
Two patterns of pulsation compete in Multistability 1-B.
Multistability 6-B has the fluttering quality of
Terry Riley's Rainbow in C.
The bubbling Multistability 9 gathers a lot of "instability" to
create the most unsettling but also intense concerto on the album.
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