Max Eilbacher Red Anxiety Tracers

[Spectrum Spools; 2014]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: modular, collage, documentary
Others: Nick Edwards/Ensemble Skalectrik, Three Legged Race, Horse Lords

On his debut full-length, Max Eilbacher guides his audience across an electro-acoustic lattice of sonic fragments that appear to be related in their essence, but only through the most distant of means. Connected by the finest compositional fabric, the sounds that make up both extraordinary sides of Red Anxiety Tracers are like webs of cellular tissue that conjoin a single tone, frequency, or sample. These fragments then leech onto the next in an attempt to foster a sense of cohesion. In this way, Eilbacher’s formative method is personified by a cluster of gushes, clangs, hammers, and thumps, each of which spawn from a single, modular-induced processing effect. The eventual trajectories of each component are therefore impossible to fathom as they pass the duration of this intricately constructed network of ideas.

And this is a journey, by the way, even in the absence of identifiable entrance and exit points. The accompanying video trailer for the album features two men zoning out to the encompassing chapters, as they rotate on a record player, stepping into an unpredictable void without physically moving. It suggests that the music has been devised for the sole purposes of inducing a psychotic episode rather than a typical listening experience, which is reflected in the expression on each character’s face as they become increasingly sedated. But for this listener, the sounds are conducive to creating their own fractured imagery, allowing for an act of engagement as a substitute for vacuous spaces in which to mentally disintegrate.

In a recent interview with Ad Hoc, Eilbacher talked about Red Anxiety Tracers as a depiction of the recording procedure itself, a reflection of his learning curve in preparing to work with vinyl. After having recorded a batch of music by way of self-imposed technical restrictions, masses of content were archived before being dismembered and then rearranged. It’s the latter phase that I find the most curious, how months of experimentation are sculpted to form a body of work that knowingly represents the acquisition of a technique or familiarity — it verges on an album about the making of an album. It’s great to hear a musician removing themselves from their comfort zone (which for Eilbacher involves playing in Needle Gun and Horse Lords) and applying their skills to a fresh format. Perhaps this is why the tracks are arranged as chapters instead of being separately spliced up — it’s difficult to discern where the idea behind one recording ends and another begins, yet there remains a textural convergence between each sonic particle.

On the introductory section, “Slowlo” showcases a reel of clicks, bleeps, and static, which breathe in and out of samples cut from a lively crowd of people. There is a feeling of excitement and exasperation as those involved converse with one another, or at least that’s how the recordings manifest. When the space between these patterns of sporadic dialog move closer together, the sound of detectable conversations take on a telling form, where the human voice seems to have been selected for aesthetic reasons as opposed to providing a commentary on the interaction between organic and mechanical elements. Further contrasting fusions can be found throughout the album, but the most impressive occurs when “Persistent Scenes” merges into “Did the Surfer Survive?” The transition depicts gritty oscillations as they are charged against a refined melodic tone, flowing in and out of focus in a similar approach to the “Slowlo” background conversation, before panning out into a beautiful, high-frequency glitch progression.

Each documented sequence comes teeming with intrigue, where the details within each chapter keep the listener keen to find out how the dots are going to connect and where the next set of effects are going to take them; for in spite of the convoluted fashion in which the tracks are assembled, they’re married in a manner that takes textural similarities into account first and foremost. Where theories or concepts behind the music might otherwise encroach on our enjoyment of it, Red Anxiety Tracers seeks to rekindle those base feelings of what made “experimental” music so wonderful to begin with; it’s a reminder that documentary affirmation of the learning process can also lead to the most compelling works of art.

Links: Max Eilbacher - Spectrum Spools

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