Smutny Telehors

[Normoton; 2006]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: laptop electronica, musique concrète, minimalism
Others: Christopher Willits, Autechre, Matthew Dear

After reading about Daniel Smutny, avant garde composer going pop (as he puts it), I was picturing an electro-acoustic rock opera. But Smutny’s take on it is something more akin to the electronic minimalism of Pole and Pan Sonic, with the word ‘pop’ bearing little meaning at all. More than pitches or any regard for structure, Smutny is focused on texture, and consequently rhythm, which is difficult to pull off for an entire album, and in this instance leaves a lot to be desired. Forcing concrete loops out of scrapes and clangs from the everyday world, Telehors is quite visceral in creating aural landscapes and an abstract travelogue, but I'll be damned if it adds up to anything significant.

To be fair, Smutny has in fact created a dense microcosmos of sound and subtleties. But rather than his murky, concrète daydreams being a challenge to process, which is usually a welcome prerequisite amongst the avant garde, it’s a remarkably hushed listen. Not to dismiss ambience, but once Smutny reveals the drastic ways he can manipulate sound, it’s surprising he doesn’t do more of it. For the most part, simplicity remains in the forefront, while what seems like the real work he’s doing sits in the background. The rare moments where he stabs at sound (well displayed in “La Femme Cinematique”), dramatically altering the fabric of his songs, are remarkable. While these few stunning moments make an impact (in part because of a simple break in monotony), it’s more a nod to his progressive laptop manipulations. Too often, however, Smutny relies on obsessive subtlety, editing together the most mundane of his ethereal sounds.

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