Telecognac Memory

[Crouton; 2001]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: electro-acoustic, experimental, avant-garde, minimal
Others: Jim O’Rourke, Raccoons, John Cage

Just when I thought my avant-garde phase was over, I fucking go and purchase Jon Mueller's other project Telecognac. What is it about random sounds appearing in two minute intervals? What is it about the constant drones that keep me erect in my chair? What is it about those unidentifiable looped noises? I wish I knew the answers to these questions, but I don't. All I know is that I'm back to passively sitting in my chair-- eyes closed, mouth half open, absorbing the sounds as they find paths to my eardrums-- like a fragmented dream, or something.

The ubiquitous Jon Mueller once again collaborates with the likes of Chris Rosenau (Pele, Collections of Colonies of Bees) and Scott Beschta (ex-Pele) for Telecognac's sophomore release, Memory. This concept album serves as an avant-garde excursion into the deepest realms of the human memory. Each track features a short, beautiful text of a memory that is described as distinctly as the smell of pot at a punk rock show. The music's repetitive nature and use of counterpoint amply support the memory motif.

The 6-tracks are appropriately titled "Memory 1" through "Memory 6." Most of them meditate on orchestral snippets and electronically manipulated ambience. As mentioned before, many have a repeating quality but never lose their luster because something is always fluctuating; and the contrapuntal arrangements keep the listener in an entertaining trance.

"Memory 1" is a perfect example of Telecognac's use of counterpoint and repetition. It begins with a looped string arrangement sample that continues through most of the track. Something that sounds similar to a marker writing on a balloon is later added. The electronically manipulated balloon sound provides a disorienting effect over the organic strings, as it slowly becomes fiercer and higher-pitched. The song continues with added sounds that are both "found" and "created." Throughout the 12-plus minutes, the song doesn't build up to anything, nor does it have any real structure; it's just there, which is oddly comforting.

What makes Memory more successful than other avant-garde sound collages out there is that it effectively combines the organic nature of strings amidst the alien noises and indiscernible sound effects. This, in turn, creates a constant haunting mood that underpins the tracks, as they slowly unravel their beautiful core. The album is never rushed or forced; the sounds all fit together perfectly and are juxtaposed with maturity and modesty. The pieces make you feel like you're dreaming inside one of your own memories-- surreal and almost spiritual.

Mueller and company have definitely refined their explorations into the avant-garde, sound-art domain. They know just when to keep apace and just when to quiet things down. Most avant-garde works hint at trying to be difficult and require full attentiveness from the listener, but Telecognac has created tracks that are extremely visceral, relying on mood and consistency. Though not an album to play in a car, Memory is a great album to unwind to without entirely shutting down your brain-- an album that places you in the artists' vantage, providing revisited memories that only come out with the lull of the music.

1. Memory 1
2. Memory 2
3. Memory 3
4. Memory 4
5. Memory 5
6. Memory 6