CLUBbleu: DARK~asian~ENERGY [singa~core album]

Gruenrekorder has probably never before released anything as weird and playful as DARK~asian~ENERGY [singa~core album], though the move is hardly unwelcome; if anything, it's refreshing to see the label making room for material of a wilder nature. Issued as part of its Sound Art Series, the forty-five-minute collection is the brainchild of CLUBbleu members Felix Leuschner and Julia Mihály, the former a classically trained drummer with experience composing for music theatre, chamber music, and vocal-electronic pieces and the latter a composer-performer with backgrounds in classical singing and electronic composition.

For their collaboration, Leuschner generates real-time sound synthesis from e-drums, field recordings, and electronics connected to Max/MSP whereas Mihály works with Max/MSP-connected analogue synths, game controllers, and toy instruments. The material for the album came about when the two were gathering field recordings in 2014 and decided to transmute the sound barrage emanating out of urban Singapore into ten mashups rooted in everything from computer game music and trashy pop tunes to electro-acoustic music and site-based field recordings.

The material calls to mind the early days of electronica when artists like Oval, Terre Thaemlitz, and Matmos were resetting experimental music's boundaries with bold, sometimes glitch-ridden explorations. CLUBbleu's release is similar in playful spirit to the kind of clicks-and-cuts material artists of that time (many of them Mille Plateaux associates) were creating. A mere scan of the track titles reflects the irreverent spirit of the project, with the tone-setting opener “Bambi Died of Lung Cancer” joined by “Chicken Feet and Durian 1” (Durian a kind of ice cream) and “Charsiewbao” (Char Siu Bao a recipe for steamed BBQ pork buns); track details provided by the pair also capture the playful spirit of the project: “Restricted Area,” for instance, includes the following: “Throw your microphone as high and as far as you can over a barb wire fence. In case security catches you, forget the microphone, run as fast you can. Don't get distracted by the policemen's whistles. Don't get caught!”

How's it sound? Think punishing beats endlessly stuttering and battered by chattering gameboy noises, sputtering synths, dental drills, mangled product pitches, and intercom announcements. In two of the more coherent constructions, Indian Deepavali tunes and Chinese pop music surface within “Singacore Sling” to give the cocktail a woozy twist, and slow, electronics-grounding pulsations in “Toxi Timah” cap the album with five minutes of relative calm. Though many of its glitch-drenched collages threaten to spin out of control, CLUBbleu generally keeps the madness in check, and with heavily manipulated voice samples of Singaporean artists folded into “Chicken Feet and Durian 1,” DARK~asian~ENERGY [singa~core album] even starts to sound a bit like Matmos's A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure—certainly not bad company to be in.

March 2017