Bluermutt: Uncertain Data Packed in Red Boxes

Calika: Crooked

Crooked is an apt title for Simon Kealoha's latest Calika release, as bent and twisted beats underpin equally fractured melodic structures in the EP's five electroacoustic settings. Once again a distinctive found-sound sensibility pervades the material, with the ever-resourceful Kealoha obsessively shaping his tracks from equal helpings of natural (guitars, drums) and sampled sounds. In a typical Calika track, a repeating bass line functions as a stabilizing center, which in turn allows the drums and the idiosyncratic sound design to swirl less fixedly. While that's generally the case, there are variations on that theme; in the the ponderous “A Serpentine Tale,” for example, clip-clops and a ticking clock act as the anchor. In the title track, found-sound percussion crosses paths with a brooding melodica-styled theme and a see-sawing, two-note bass pulse amidst a nightmarish mass of creaks and acoustic strums. By contrast, skittering rhythms can't hide the rollicking, light-hearted vibe that beats at the heart of “I Still Dream of You.” Kealoha might have had On The Corner in mind when he assembled “Mega Mega,” a hyperative exercise in mutant jazz-funk and broken beats. At twenty-two minutes, Crooked may be modest in length and ambition, but its mix of s trangulated electronic effects and writhing beats is as unusual as anything else Kealoha has released.

In Uncertain Data Packed in Red Boxes, Bluermutt, an unidentified twenty-six-year-old, Barcelona-based computer music maker who's previously issued material on Nexsound, provides a thirty-five-minute tour through his hermetic sound world. The seven tracks in this case are dominated by interactions between clean tones, pops, blips, and whirrs in an equally clean, digitally-created environment. The glassy-toned, gamelan-inflected opener, “Pack My Shit and Disappear,” is considerably more meditative and delicate in spirit than its irreverent title might suggest; an Eastern sensibility permeates “Chain Smoking” too, when tiny electronic droplets coalesce into slow-moving, criss-crossing patterns. Drum sounds rather inexplicably surface during “C Zamora 105.7 Pm” to give the track added momentum but not so much that Bluermutt's affinity for glacial tempi is compromised. Other acoustic sounds emerge too (electric guitar and clarinet, if I'm not mistaken), which in turn give the track a radically different character from the microsound style heard elsewhere. The material isn't wholly bereft of rhythm either, as attested to by the funk feel that gradually asserts itself during the second half of “Purple Grain.” There's an austere and minimalistic quality to “I Don't Like to Talk” as well as some of the other pieces that suggests Bluermutt wouldn't sound out of place as part of Raster-Noton's roster. In general, the EP could be characterized as headphones music that, analogically, is much like organisms moving about in semi-intelligble formations in a manner that would most clearly be seen via microscope.

September 2009