Andrew Pekler: Strings + Feedback

Though an imaginary circuit diagram offers a rather intimidating gateway into Andrew Pekler's new album, its music is hardly as uninviting as the cover image might suggest. The recording is, however, dramatically different from his ~scape outings Station to Station and last year's Nocturnes, False Dawns & Breakdowns, both of which integrated ‘60s jazz samples into cool, metropolitan digi-scapes. You'll hear no sax and drums on Strings and Feedback; instead, Pekler constructs ten crystalline meditations using piano and string samples taken from classical works (including Morton Feldman's in the 1950s). Swathed in static hiss and anchored by looping bases, wayward tones, gleaming plucks, and shuddering strums drift, weave, surface, and disappear within the amoebic mix. What most surprises is the spacey, ethereal, and at times ominous mood that Pekler sculpts in these alien vistas, an effect intensified by the occasional swoop of Theremin-styled glissandi that recalls early electronic-classical compositions like Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie and its prominent usage of the ondes martenot. Percussive knocks and bowed tones in “Refusenik,” for example, convincingly conjure an atmosphere of intense gloom in a mere two minutes. Though Strings and Feedback is more esoteric and hermetic than Pekler's first two albums, it's distinguished by sounding less obviously derivative and therefore more uniquely his own.

October 2005