Refractor: Locus Suspectus
Under The Spire

We're currently witnessing a synthesizer music resurgence thanks to people like Emeralds' Steve Hauschildt, the recipient of deserved attention for his 2011 Tragedy & Geometry release on kranky, and Daniel Lopatin, whose Oneohtrix Point Never outing Replica was generally regarded as one of last year's major releases. It would appear that San Francisco-based Jospeh Martinez's name should be added to the list on account of his Refractor opus Locus Suspectus, a twelve-inch vinyl collection (in an edition of 200) featuring eleven short improvisations produced using a single synthesizer. Martinez himself clarifies that “all mixing, panning, decay, and reverb [was] manipulated within the instrument [so as to] to embrace the limitations of one-take recordings with no additional editing.” All such details aside, what's refreshing about the tracks are their concision—no long-form ambient-dronescaping here!—with Martinez moving from one knob-twisted setting to the next in rapid succession. He also manages to squeeze a rich range of warble and rumble out of that lone synthesizer, plus parks any po-faced, end-of-the-world tendencies at the door to enliven the proceedings with a spirit of explorative curiosity. In short order, we hear the chime of bright, accordion-like tones (“Virtual Distractions”), low-end pulsations and flickerings (“Digital Crutches”), and even a few moments of serenading radiance (“Presence”). And when some hint of darkness does appear on the horizon, it does so for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it three minutes (“Undulating”). Martinez characterizes the work as “(s)awtooth waves of synthesized ramblings with Marshall McLuhan and Aldous Huxley in mind,” an apt and appropriately succinct description for his inviting set.

February 2012