Cyclotimia: Music for Stockmarkets

Cyclotimia's Music for Stockmarkets is an inordinately curious collection on multiple counts. Firstly, the Moscow-based duo of MK and LM has produced tracks for the album that sound both old and new. Many of the sounds on the album, such as vintage drum machines and analogue Soviet synthesizers of the kind one might have heard an outfit like Tangerine Dream use in its earliest days, hark back to the dawn of krautrock and synthesizer music. Yet the music's overall production is pristine and glossy, suggesting that current technologies have been used to assemble the components into their final form. Secondly, the album fits thirty-two tracks into its sixty-four-minute running time, with most in the one-minute range, making one (“Customer Lifetime Value”) seem like a veritable epic at eight minutes; more precisely, Music for Stockmarkets is split into three sections: “Wallstreet Requiem” (recorded in 2004-07), “Trivial Pleasures” (recorded in 2002, issued as a separate CD in 2003), and “Financial Glossary” (recorded in 2003). Finally, as will be obvious by now, the Russian duo conceptualized the album as a soundtrack to “globalization” and the “consumer society.” (MK and LM provide their own explanation: “Free market and global money movements shape the political and social reality of today, and thus, the people's minds and the culture they create … Today's global money movements, sequences of 0s and 1s, virtually form a nonmaterial, spiritual substance—the Holy Spirit, presuming which, the stock exchange turns into a temple for the worship of the new religion, and the music presented on this album can be regarded as liturgical background for the sacred business procedures.”)

Of course, being wholly instrumental, the listener can choose to draw connections between the material and the song titles and album concept, or ignore the extra-musical dimension altogether and listen to Music for Stockmarkets as a constantly shape-shifting collection of largely synthetic sounds presented in various styles. Certainly the title for the opening section, “Wallstreet Requiem,” is well-chosen, given the oft-mournful tone of its ten tracks. In “Land of Prosperity,” for example, a lonely Theremin-like warble floats alongside a mournful piano melody, and “Customer Lifetime Value” exemplifies a requiem character in the somber melodies that drift through its synthetic funeral parlor and in the percussive pounding that suggest nails being pounded to seal a coffin lid shut. As different as the musical and the conceptual materials might appear on paper, it is possible for one to draw connections between them. “Quick Quote,” for instance, is hyperactive and bubbly, as if to mimic the light-speed transmission of money throughout the global market, and one confidently guesses Cyclotimia's position regarding mass consumption when a distorted voice croaks unintelligibly during the menacing “24 Hours of Non-Stop Consumption.” Not surprisingly, the tone of “Stock Talk” isn't gleeful and euphoric but instead gloomy and portentous. Nevertheless, it's an arresting release—there's definitely no shortage of ideas in play and the range of sounds and styles is plentiful—even if it is an oft-strange one.

June 2009