Lifted 1

[PAN; 2015]

Styles: electronic, improvisation
Others: Gardland, Objekt, Afrikan Sciences, Oneohtrix Point Never

Musical history and mythology have created an arbitrary association between improvisation and meditation, or between formlessness and profound spirituality or purity of mind. Even total cacophony has been, at some time, in some context, vulnerable to allegations of peacefulness; Coltrane’s Interstellar Space was once accused of “sacrosanct tenderness.” Co La and Max D’s first collaborative album as Lifted ends with “Medicated Yoga,” a kind of tautology that plays off of this particular iteration of laziness in music criticism. 1 is, at times, a violent cacophony reminiscent of the older Coltrane, but it’s also a tongue-in-cheek parody of tenderness, betraying its critical tone through multi-dimensional laying of electronics and a dramatic structure evoked from each jam.

On “3D,” the first part of “Intoo,” “Bell Slide,” and “Mint,” sounds are introduced and layered in a playful manner, lending a schizophrenic tone that makes 1 really exciting to listen to for the first time, but a bit flat upon subsequent consideration. The second part of “Intoo” is where that layering becomes most exciting — a corny, preset-sounding but artfully programmed synth part becomes the jam’s central element, despite sounding spatially “behind” or “underneath” the hectic rhythm elements. But the main drama and conflict of 1 derives from the play between jazzy percussion, unique and careful (ab)use of synthesis, and pastiche of electronic music, creating the clearest sense of an overall tone in an otherwise unfocused effort. Much-needed solace from the virtual insanity comes from the other tracks, including “Lift,” which is limited to an OPN-esque pairing of fake strings with fake piano, each playing an erratic and repetitive melody.

Speaking of repetition, the rest of the tracks establish it (in its mid-century, minimalist seriousness) as another minor theme of the collaboration. First, there’s “Total Care Zero,” which feels like more smirking pastiche in its juxtaposition of natural, wet, lifelike, “tropical” sounds and tactile rhythms with a jazz song structure. Then, personal favorite “Silver,” with its hypnotic piano and metallic swell. Finally, the amorphous, cosmopolitan collective makes a statement of purpose of sorts with the aforementioned “Medicated Yoga,” which is somehow both a rigid, pendulumic drone and a psychedelic void of form at the same time. In the end, the tension between organization and randomness is far less interesting than the way in which Lifted critique our commonly held notions of both and the elements of which they are constituted. Surprisingly, the parts of this record that contribute its most novel and genuine improvisation are far less interesting than the moments of brilliance at which Papich, Max D and co. find a way to arrange a bunch of wonky electronic sounds in a structure that means something to any idle listener.

1 doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, but it trades the consistency and confidence I expect for a refreshing flexibility.

Links: PAN

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