Tara Sinn + Blues Control My Afterlife Is So Boring II

[NewHive; 2015]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: fun drone, puka-shell kraut, HTML
Others: Eric Copeland, Kwjaz, Molly Soda

Structure can be an incredibly useful tool. When employed in certain ways, it can link movement and color to form disparate sonic elements, juxtaposing them in ways that create an indelible whole while elevating the beauty of each. But what to do when structure becomes an obligation, a burden? Occasionally artists will choose to discard it, and then other means of presenting sounds start to manifest. When Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland released their 2012 album Black Is Beautiful, they concurrently made available for free download The Attitude Era, a collection of outtakes, half-finished demos, sketches, and components of tracks that never reached “completion.” Those few dozen songs, which were not meant to be heard in any particular order, comprised a highly engaging “album experience” in its own right. One was never certain if the next track would be a brief freestyle, a wall of harsh noise, or a lullaby from Inga’s warped voice. While Black Is Beautiful was a solid album, it felt, by their standards, pragmatic and safe, whereas Attitude felt like the bolder musical statement of the two.

Blues Control’s latest collection of tracks reflects this sense of freedom and play that’s absent from most anything else so far this year. Released as sonic accompaniment to artist Tara Sinn’s My Afterlife Is So Boring II project — published on multimedia publishing platform NewHive — the six short pieces forego the usual music-release structure, being wedded to Sinn’s images to create a delightful mini-trip through an online wonderland. Unlike the opposing hierarchies implied in, say, a CD release or a gallery installation, the images and sounds here are in total symbiosis, without any need to separate one from the other. (Since this is a music review, I will be focusing on the sounds in this review.)

The tracks are most decidedly not random keys pressed and saturated with effects until they sound like decent background muzak. Keyboardist Lea Cho has always used her classical training and background in composition to create imaginative melodies, which is apparent from the opening notes of “forever falling,” where digital raindrops drolly drip down the screen/pane in varying speeds, colors, and patterns. The music matches the drizzly (though not necessarily drab) mood of a rainy day, and like the pitter-patter of rain itself, it’s impossible to discern whether there’s a deliberate tempo binding the sounds together or whether it just feels that way due to chance. The melody recalls the haunting simplicity of Satie, while the percussion spastically pops like fireworks in the background.

there’s a bear on the stairs,” so named due to the bear careening up Escher’s infinite staircase set against a background of impressionistic tie-dye, shows Blues Control doing the sort of thwomping, shark-tooth-necklace kraut-psych they excel at. This is perhaps the funnest and certainly the most mischievous of the six tracks presented here, evoking an army of sentient toys bent more on playing pranks and having fun than picking battles. Both the bear and the music are brought to life as if by magic, the bear animated by external forces it can’t control, the synth swirling upward in great bursts, like puffs of smoke from a medicine man’s cauldron (seen here going through the middle of the staircase). All of this is set to a beat that’s like a sentence written with one’s non-dominant hand. It’s delightful, it’s joyous, it’s already stuck in your head.

and then what?” follows, and it shows that same text swirling on the side of the screen, always on the verge of disappearing but saving itself just in the nick of time. A single delayed-out drum ping-pongs in the foreground, matching smartly with the simplicity and repetition of the image. And just when we think the drums and textures will be overtaken by themselves, with the smoke too thick to breathe, the air clears and we’re left with the same drum clanging as smoothly along as it always has been. “congratulations, you’ve reached the end” is built around repeating harp glissandos, just different enough from one another in speed and in direction to never get stale, with a muffled tom beat stabbing in and out in the background. “lazy loading partial state” is a short, repeating loop of a warped pan flute that’s so drenched in reverb it’s almost unrecognizable as an instrument, paired with a faithful MS Paint interpretation of a glitching screen. Cho drops some some no-frills shredding on “sleep mode,” which sees the other elements drop out, leaving only the repetition of a sinister keyboard sequence.

The production is a joy to listen to, the stereo channels being well utilized to increase the natural high induced by the sounds, the haziness somehow sounding like it actually came from years of dust collecting on a reel rather than a mere aftereffect. The elements are often arranged so that it’s impossible to pin down when one ends and another begins. It’s easy to miss a lot of what’s going on during initial listens, not because they are obscured, but simply because they are so well integrated into the whole that it doesn’t immediately occur to the listener to pick them out. With this release, Blues Control reminds us that foregoing conventional structure in music needn’t be a painful, erudite exercise; it can be playful, colorful, lush, and exciting, and this project is brimming with the sort of vivacious life so rarely seen in experimental music. It doesn’t presume to be anything, a “real” album least of all. If one were to measure the length of the music without considering its looped nature, it would probably clock in under 10 minutes, which is part of what makes My Afterlife Is So Boring II so refreshing. It’s tucked away in nooks and crannies, where, at this point in the game, some of the most interesting statements are being made.

Links: Tara Sinn + Blues Control - NewHive

Eureka!

Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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