Autistici: Complex Tone Test

Audiobulb head David Newman distances his Autistici sound from kindred electroacoustic producers by catalysing his originating sounds into satisfying compositional wholes. On his second full-length (12k's Volume Objects the first), Newman again uses audio captures of natural and man-made materials as starting points, with tracks built from a diverse range of sound-generating materials including mellotron, cello, harmonica, and sine waves, as well as coffee machines, cutlery, doors, and the human body.

With no clarifying information provided as to what sources were used for a given track, the album can turn into a bit of a guessing game, with the listener wondering whether a particular sound in “Resonating Wire,” for example, did or did not derive from kitchen utensils. That might, of course, have been done on purpose, with Newman maybe wanting listeners to focus on the end result rather than be sidetracked by the minutiae of sound sources. Regardless, the familiar flute-like strains of the mellotron that inaugurate “Key For a Lockable Cabinet” immediately establish the recording's focus on acoustic sound sources. Dazzling, harp-like clusters swirl in perpetual motion at the beginning of the psychedelically-tinged “Meticule” before a jagged, tick-tock pattern and pounding bass drum take over. The aforementioned “Resonating Wire” uses sampled sounds to texturally enrich a slow-moving drone that becomes a backdrop for cello playing, after which the percussive clank of a door closing merges with glassy tones during the generally peaceful “Closing” (snoring sounds near its end drive the point home).

A comparison of three tracks reveals how just how diverse the album's material can be: the neon tones of “Refractory” apparently were generated by an audio-analysis of a rainbow; “Disintegrated Interest” could pass for an excerpt from a contemporary Russian composer's string quartet; and breathing noises and the evocative wheeze of harmonica bring a “human” dimension to the alien creaks and micro-biological burble that percolate throughout “Annualized Light.” As a title, Complex Tone Test might suggest a recording of dry and academic character; on the contrary, Newman's fifty-minute collection ranges widely over rich sonic and stylistic terrain. Though the album appears on Kesh Recordings (the label run by one-time Slowdive member Simon Scott), it has all the earmarks of a kranky release, and would sit comfortably alongside recent recordings by White Rainbow and Ethernet.

October 2009