FROM SEQUENCES MAGAZINE - WRITTEN BY PHIL DERBY
Various Artists ARCHIPELAGO
1. Rhomb "Lunatic"
2. Csero "Pikoliftor"
3. Seofon "Immanent"
4. Thermal "Span"
5. Dean Santomieri "Crude Rotation"
6. eM "Click Pop"
Archipalego is a musical collective of experimental electronic
musicians from the San Francisco Bay area. It is sponsored by
Michael Bentley's label The Foundry, known for its daring forays
into sonic manipulation. Past work by the various musicians has
covered the gamut, ranging from melodic and tribal to completely
abstract noise. In this handsomely packaged set of 6 mini 3" CDs,
each running about 20 minutes, I'd have to say the emphasis is on the
latter. Much of the set could be summed up in the title of the final
disc, "Click Pop." That is, there are a lot of clicks and pops on
it. For example, Csero's "Pikoliftor" literally sounds like the disc
is skipping frequently. The sound gets more rapid and intense, and
more electronic noises gradually build on this. Csero is actually
Ian Stokes, the brother of ambient artist Saul Stokes. Like his
brother, Ian builds his own synthesizers and creates his own sound
world. The similarity largely ends there, however. This collection
is abstract and quite challenging, definitely not for the faint of
heart. Dean Santomieri's "Crude Rotation" sounds like news samples
from old scratchy LPs, with added white noise, static, and
occasional stabs of electronics. It actually is fascinating, but
also very daring, and occasionally scary, as on "Ati Noko," a poem
about dangerous obsession that seems to combine the story of the
serpent in Genesis with a dash of Dracula. Julie Oxendale's voice is
enchanting, even though the end result is disturbing. Quieter but no
less abstract is the track "Rite of Springs," which pushes the vocal
samples into the background, focusing on sparse soundscapes of muted
bells, something akin to footsteps in the snow, a jack-in-the-box
winding up, and others.
Not all is scratches, skips, and random noise collages. Joshua
Maremont's disc features "Main Span - Blues for Muru," a 19-minute
piece that would sit alongside more mainstream music, though only
very relatively speaking. Blending hip hop beats and a trace of jazz
and ambient elements, this is a relaxed, very cool, laid back
offering, easily my favorite piece of the six-disc set. I think Pete
Namlook fans would be right at home with this one. The Seofon disc
also has some really nice chugging rhythms, particularly on "Skyle,"
a surprisingly straightforward toe-tapper with some cool atmospheric
layers. The Rhomb disc is mellower than the rest, effectively letting
an assortment of different electronic sounds breathe through a quiet
canvas. Still, it certainly isn't going to be on Billboard's chart
anytime sooner than the rest, and of course, I'm sure any of these
artists would cringe at the thought, as that's clearly not the
intent here. I can't begin to guess where the inspiration comes from
most of the selections, or the hidden meanings within. But it could
be an odd fascination of sorts to spend a lifetime trying.
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2000 © Phil Derby / Sequences Magazine