Buckminster Fuzeboard: Funny Noises
Don't be thrown by the rather silly name: the music Boulder, Colorado-based Dave Fuller releases under the Buckminster Fuzeboard alias is definitely worth taking seriously—not that there's been a whole lot of it. Funny Noises, his full-length contribution to Ireland's Psychonavigation Records arrives thirteen years after his debut album How To Make C60 BR24 In Under An Hour appeared in 1998 to considerable acclaim. Fuller was hardly inactive during that spell, however; in addition to crafting the new release's eleven tracks, he also issued a number of tracks on a variety of other labels. Despite the long gap separating the album releases, Funny Noises turns out to be a surprisingly modest collection on time-related grounds, with three pieces in the one-minute range and the album as a whole only forty minutes.Fuller scatters liberal doses of treated voice samples and, yes, funny electronic noises across his downtempo rhythms, resulting in a playful yet polished IDM-trip-hop hybrid perfectly tailored for chill-out rooms everywhere. Representative of the album's approach, the opening title track underlays electronic squiggles and manipulated voice samples with an ultra-languorous beat, the sum-total of which is as laid-back and quietly radiant a track as Psychonavigation has probably yet released. “Concentration Synapses” feels, if anything, even more relaxed in tone, especially when its gentle voice utterances seem specifically designed to coax the listener into a state of unconsciousness. In certain moments, one can't help but be reminded of The Orb, such as when, during “Numbers,” a female voice is heard saying, “And they say ‘How do I know so many numbers?' and I say, ‘I don't know'.” Though there are similarities between the two groups' styles, Fuller's is a tad less brain-addled by comparison, and his tracks never threaten to veer out of control, despite their wayward and open-ended spirit.
Psychonavigation's latest compilation also features Buckminster Fuzeboard—in fact, he introduces it—but his fleeting contribution, “Grouped by Regions” (also on Funny Noises), is over before you know it. No matter: the fifteen tracks selected by label head Keith Downey offer a compelling argument for Psychonavigation's place within the ambient-electronica-techno firmament. He's certainly managed to bring a number of major players on board, with artists such as Scanner, Robert Leiner, The Black Dog, Boxcutter, The Future Sound Of London, and Arve Henriksen contributing in one way or another. The listener comes away from the collection impressed with the eclectic stylistic range captured on the disc, which is distinguished by a gradual shift in emphasis from dynamic uptempo tracks to understated, introverted set-pieces. Though a number of tracks were previously unreleased, it's a label showcase in one very clear sense, with six pieces scheduled to appear on forthcoming Psychonavigation albums and thus acting as teasers for the artists' respective releases.
The album proper therefore begins strongly with Spacetime Continuum's (San Francisco-based Jonah Sharp) “Beryllium Sphere,” a luscious ambient-techno serenade whose downtempo BPM and ethereal character give it the effect of a soothing narcotic. That atmospheric techno style carries over into David Morley's percolating and house-tinged “Equator” and Norken's (Lee Norris) hard-hitting IDM-techno fusion “Pretty Bubblegum.” Techno and rave aren't the first words that come to mind when the anodyne name is mentioned, but that's exactly what happens after The Black Dog gets through mauling Colin Cloughley's string-drenched “Corrosion,” an epic, ten-minute floorshaker that could light up any festival stage. Irish artist Toby Kaar perpetuates that brain-addled vibe with a bass-powered overhaul of Zombie Computer's “Your Rules,” before Boxcutter (Barry Lynn) bridges Warp IDM, dubstep, drum'n'bass, and jungle via Aphex Twin-styled acrobatics in “Diagonal Reader VIP.”
At this juncture, Mindfield undergoes a major shift in tone to a gentler style that will carry on until disc's end. The Future Sound Of London contributes one of the album's most arresting pieces, “Heart Sick Chord,” which unites a wealth of disparate sounds into a phantasmagoric cornucopia. In this eight-minute setting, harpsichords, flutes, strings, and cymbals generate a psychedelic web of hyperactivity within which faint echoes of Satie dreamily resonate. Enrico Coniglio and Arve Henriksen are then heard combining their estimable talents in bringing “The Girl From Murania” into being, with the latter's affecting trumpet playing one of the album's most striking sounds. In using an arrangement heavy on pounding orchestral drums and strings, Robin Rimbaud gives his ultra-dramatic Scanner track “Persephone” a heavily cinematic character. Far less portentous by comparison are Sense's (Adam Raisbeck) ambient serenade “Less Than Perfect,” Karol Gwózdz's dream-like piano meditation “Gurnoslunskje tragedyje,” and Roger Doyle's touching, set-closing reverie “From The Room In The Tower.” With the compilation weighing in at almost eighty minutes of music, you'll hardly feel shortchanged; better yet, you'll be thoroughly well-schooled in all things Psychonavigation by the time the recording's done, if you weren't already.