Has anyone figured out what to call the renaissance of synthesizer-based “experimental” “noise” music? Is it not weird that there aren’t four to six readily available genre names for it? People are trying. We like a pattern, and there are clear connections, at least in terms of equipment, that seem to unify this group. But the music itself varies wildly. On When We Were Eating Unripe Pears, Chris Madak pulls from ambient, IDM, kosmische, dub, and noise wherever he feels the urge. What word can we combine with “-wave” to codify Bee Mask’s family resemblance to the other contemporary synthesis masters?
We may be approaching a point when these designations become useless. What does When We Were Eating Unripe Pears sound like? Squelching filters, layered pads, resonance bubbles, vibraphones, swelling sequences… the list goes on. And those are only short and inadequate descriptors of the sounds that occur in the first track. A sudden stab of bass announces the second, and by “The Story of Keys and Locks,” we’ve nigh entered dance music territory. Or is it Steve Reich-ian minimalism? Are those jingle bells at the end? I thought this was electronic music?
Madak’s use of the whole spectrum of electronic music means that When We Were Eating Unripe Pears evokes both a sense of breadth and an elusiveness. Whenever the music feels like it has anchored, it shifts. Even the shifts themselves escape an easy pattern. Sometimes they are slow evolutions. Sometimes they occur within a second. The disintegration of the heavily distorted synth line in “Pink Drinq” occurs so suddenly that you couldn’t possibly expect it. It becomes a different song, and the novelty of the new sound acts as a memory eraser. You’re suddenly in a new dimension. One can imagine distracted listeners constantly checking their sound system to make sure the same album is still playing.
But none of this is to imply that When We Were Eating Unripe Pears lacks focus. While the myriad of textures and allusions melds into a coherence under Madak’s singular approach, that doesn’t mean we’re any closer to pinning it down. In a way, the oft-derided descriptor noise is somehow appropriate. It escapes codified genre into a complex tissue of allusions and novelties. Perhaps the melting pot approaches a new form, not so much an experimental music as just musicians making use of whatever structure feels necessary at that moment. As musicians access the movements of recorded music history and as technology develops towards a singularity of sonic possibilities, we approach an aesthetic that can describe any music. A pure sound independent of category may await us on the horizon, and these pushes toward unseating the hegemony of genre may be one of the last sources of novelty left to explore.