Faux Pas: Faux Feels
Glen Liberman: Why Am I
A global flood of music currently pours forth at an alarming rate, with samplers and affordable technologies rapidly facilitating the transition from listener to producer. Of course it's not just a matter of skill acquisition and number crunching but talent and imagination too. Tim Shiel (Faux Pas), Glen Liberman, and Neil Cain (Ligyro) may be operating to some degree out of their bedrooms, but their EPs suggest they have the talent to move outside them.
Inspired by Caribou and Minotaur Shock and, Melbourne-based Shiel augments five detailed exercises in sampling and cut-and-paste with electronic sounds, home-recorded guitar playing, and Casio tones on his Faux Feels EP (a tiny sleeve note cheekily states, “To the 56 artists who unknowingly contributed to these 5 songs, I don't have enough money to pay you but thanks anyway”). Nine months in the making, the disc exudes a rather 'kitchen-sink' feel yet there's no denying a boisterous joie de vivre courses through the disc's eighteen minutes. In the jubilant opener “Barry,” a tremulous acoustic bass line, clicking patterns, and claps lead a breezy romp through Latin neighbourhoods before colliding with over-the-top orchestral horns and strings; fortunately, Shiel allows the tune to decompress in a delicate dénouement. Elsewhere, “White Light” reclines in a smoky den where a Japanese koto player jams with a soul guitarist over a laid-back bongos groove while the propulsive rumble of a snappy funk beat in “Crud Convenience” vaguely recalls Ammoncontact. The less enthralling “Cup of Wonder” flirts with tastelessness by merging Ian Anderson's flute with disco-funk beats, blaxploitation horn blasts, and wah-wah guitar though, to his credit, Shiel mercifully includes the proviso “Warning: contains actual Jethro Tull.” Though Faux Feels is often frivolous, those moments when Shiel tightens the focus suggest that he's capable of making music that transcends mere novelty.
Unlike Shiel's disc, Glen Liberman's Why Am I eschews a sampledelic style for warm melodictronica. Though some of the 24-minute EP's eight pieces stick around long enough to register as full-fledged compositions, others are vignettes; a shame, for example, that the two-minute “Distant Voices” doesn't evolve into something more than a fleeting groove of dubby echo and typewriter clicks. Still, “Builder,” “The Ghosts of Me,” and “Forever, Saturation” present a sleek brand of minimal clickhouse that emphasizes sparkling melodies over bottom-heavy propulsion. Liberman smartly enriches the material with individuating touches, like Rhodes elements in “Plastic Gun” and pizzicato plucks that lend subtle orchestral flavour to “Spark Catcher;” elsewhere, the electronic ambiance of “Firefly in the Afterlife” is nicely offset by the natural pluck of acoustic guitar and a seeming banjo. Though rather unassuming in character, Why Am I clearly shows Liberman's potential.
Liberman's disc sounds even more pristine when heard next to the half-hour debut by Ligyro, the nom de plume adopted by San Francisco native Neil Cain in 2003, which unfurls in a congealing haze of distorted noises, squelchy beats, church organs, and voice samples. Currently studying electroacoustic composition at Indiana University, Cain embraces a bold patchwork style during the disc's nine pieces: in “Dissipate,” sombre string themes drift over lightly throbbing pulses while placid smears and hydraulic beats shuffle through a church assembly of chanting singers in “Hollow.” In one of the more developed pieces, “Orange Bounce,” a fuzzy bass line bleats against swishing breaks while a smothering blanket of electronic hail falls from the sky, the track convulsively tripping over itself as it nears its end. Though Ligyro's sound is occasionally grimy, Cain's not afraid to allow some prettiness to intervene too, with the bright closer “Bright” a case in point.