Musical practice that provides aesthetic shelter in textural and timbral qualities rather than melodic and harmonic structures is the revolution of the electronic music vanguard. I believe this to be true for one simple reason: it relinquishes form and elevates sound. Infinite realizations of Beethoven’s Fifth are possible. This is because the piece of music as a work is not considered to be exhausted by its particular enunciations, but is regarded as something necessarily beyond them. That which is necessarily beyond the enunciation of the piece of music is its form. But what’s interesting about form is that it doesn’t actually exist: my body is true, but a diagram of my body is not. The diagram of my body can’t be fundamentally true, because, as true only in correspondence to my body, its truth relies on the truth of my body in the first place.
Giuseppe Ielasi and Andrew Pekler have created an album titled Holiday for Sampler. It’s music made of manipulations of recorded sounds and their improvised interactions. It’s a mystery how musical patterns can emerge from disparate elements and fragments of sound as they do here, but it’s only the sole mystery of music itself: how can meaningless particles of noise combine to create something that is not nonsense? Not nonsensical sound is not created, in my opinion, because a piece of music is the physical manifestation of an ideal form. Rather, it is not nonsense purely because it is able to separate, arrange, and rearrange parts; it is meaningful as the manifest movement of differentiation and identification itself.
It is only in putting the relationship of differentiation and identification into play in a novel, fresh way that sounds really sound. “Yalta,” the album’s opening track, sounds: it sounds like a Four Tet track put on an illimitable rewind, composed of shifting and sliding parts resistant to solid formation. In such ungraspable gestures, Pekler and Ielasi allow the natural movement of the recorded fragment, loop, or phrase to emerge, swim, and find its own completion: the identifiable musical kernel of a sound isn’t overstated but allowed to drift obliquely across the texture in which it is surrounded, to pass and to disappear, secure in its own inner contentment. It is thus resistant to form; the focus is on the physicality of sound as interaction. Like cloud formations, its dynamic is self-renewing, a calm metamorphosis that is astonishingly never still. The pace of the album varies constantly — from the sparkling, weightless energy of “Ribadeo,” to the clunky abandon of “Parghelia,” to the crackling, dreamy “Neringa” — but the rate of change feels perfectly constant.
There are two levels to the organization of the sounds on this release: (1) the real-time improvisation that took place two years ago, and (2) the subsequent selection and editing/reconfiguring of those recordings. The latter is a process that Pekler’s Cover Versions executed exceptionally well, subverting a whole host of terrible records under a new, beautiful schema. This album is, if a little more exploratory, of the same caliber and equally well-arranged, such that it is impossible to separate the original from the subsequent manipulations of sound. However, what really gives it life is the improvisation. Ielasi and Pekler are experts in spontaneously and intuitively playing with identification, giving a new lease on life to sounds that, in their isolation, are as dead as our ordinary, reductive ears.
There is, however, a classic duality at play here: underneath all the textural intersections and the defamiliarization of noise lie deeply melodic yearnings (for instance, in the closed-tone marimba sound that forms the base of “Yallingup” and the following ambient resonance of “Mary Losjin”). Yet, the melodic is not allowed to overrun its mechanism. This is music that points toward music, that shies away from its fully realized, arrogant brazenness and stays within the modesty of sound: I love this kind of music because it is the negation of Wagner.
Recalling Fennesz’sVenice in its grainy ambient lull and with a clear reference to places afar (each track title is a holiday resort) Holiday for Sampler is an enticing journey through various sound interactions, a brilliant document of the contingent and the fragile, of what music can only be: the in-the-moment meeting of musical minds.