Someone Else: Pen Caps and Coloured Pencils

After a plethora of 12-inch releases, foundsound issues its debut CD release, Pen Caps And Colored Pencils, by label co-manager Someone Else (Philadelphian Sean O'Neal). The album opener, “Lowdown Brittle,” presents a succinct spoken elucidation of the foundsound methodology: “The concept is pretty simple: just going everywhere—in the streets, in the fields, in the countryside—with your mic and your recording device, and you record random sounds and you just use them to create music.” That ‘recycling' approach gets its fullest workout to date in the seventy-five minutes of wacky invention that follows. Not surprisingly, never again are spoken words heard quite so coherently as O'Neal chops and slices his material—voice or otherwise—into disfigured fragments that he then scatters across stripped-down grooves.

In O'Neal's twelve tracks, swirling flickers of clipped voices, snare hits, and percussive accents incessantly burble over bass-heavy grooves that click and skip. In “Elevator Muzak,” stretched, chipmunked, and vocodered voices and whistles persistently chatter while “Mi Lápiz Es Amarillo” traffics in bleepy electro-funk; one hesitates to imagine what O'Neal's orgasmic sighs might refer to in the slippery clickhouse guzzler “Pooty Call.” At album's end, the two CD exclusives shift the tone dramatically, with the mood darkening and the pace slowing: “Family Unties” weds howling phantom voices to a psychotic crawl, while the female vocal stutters in “Oh Sean” close the album in surprisingly laid-back mode. Foundsound devotees will find much to love about the release but, by presenting so much of the style in one fell swoop, a downside is exposed. In contrast to a recording like Akufen's My Way, for example, where sampled source material is near-perfectly shaped into full-fledged compositions, Pen Caps And Colored Pencils adopts a looser and less rigorously-structured approach, and the compositions are rendered less memorable as a result.

July 2007