Mem1: +1

+1, the third full-length album by Los Angeles-based electroacoustic outfit Mem1 (Mark Cetilia on electronics and Laura Cetilia on electronics and cello) , presents nine collaborations involving the duo and Jan Jelinek, Ido Govrin, AREA C, RS-232, Frank Bretschneider, Kadet Kuhne, Jen Boyd, Jeremy Drake, and Steve Roden. Regardless of the collaborator involved, what distinguishes Mem1's approach is its concentration on the textural mass. In others' hands, the cello might be exploited as a lead melodic voice, something to be separated out from its context; in the case of Mem1, Laura's cello functions as an element within the whole—an integral and prominent element, certainly, yet still one purposefully integrated to operate as part of the textural mass. Suggesting a parallel (as the accompanying press notes do) between Mem1's approach and the rhizome concept (as characterized in Deleuze & Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus) isn't misguided, as the group's sound is founded upon the idea of multi-linked tendrils and connecting threads.

Organic and improvisation-based, the typical Mem1 piece unfolds patiently, mutating through various episodes in a way that disregards conventional notions of compositional structure and melody; bar-based rhythms also are rejected in favour of natural flow and meander. Jan Jelinek helps the duo generate a uniform, slow-motion textural mass of insect chirps, cello plucks, and vaporous textures, while, in the Ido Govrin setting, natural sounds such as crashing waves inhabit the periphery of a low-level and skeletal meditation largely devoted to layered of creaking and sawing sounds. Elsewhere, a pulsating percussive pattern lends Frank Bretschneider's piece a rhythmic thrust largely absent elsewhere, and Jeremy Drake's haunted industrial setting impresses as one of the album's most powerfully evocative pieces. Even with the contributions of the collaborators factored in, the bold chamber music pieces documented on +1 strongly retain the Mem1 imprint and end up sounding like variations on shared conceptual and production schemes.

October 2009