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Ten Million Sounds

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Robert Logan: Flesh
Slowfoot Records

It's interesting that Robert Logan chose Flesh as the title for his third full-length album, given how firmly rooted its fourteen tracks are in electronic music. Such a cybernetic character is reinforced by track titles such as “Photovoltaics” and “Cyborg Horn,” and even when one title refers to the human body as it does via “Dendrite” the reference isn't to emotions or consciousness but rather a critical aspect of physical functioning. Further to that, Logan creates his sounds, we're told, “from scratch or ... by deconstructing found sounds and acoustic instruments through extreme digital processes.” So where does the human element come in? In the fact that a human being is responsible for it, obviously, and in the involvement of guest musicians on a number of tracks, specifically drummer Frank Byng, trumpeter Andy Knight, violist Sarah Sarhandi, violinist Francis Logan, and vocalist Andrea Black (the composer himself even self-deprecatingly credits himself with trombone ‘attempts' on “Spirit Wars”).

In featuring Byng on the opening three cuts, Logan offers a hint of his live act's robust sound. The drummer certainly infuses the bulldozing “Spirit Wars” with muscular heft, while the violist and trumpeter aromatically tinge it with their contributions. If the ghost of post-rock shadows the opener, garage and funk give the melodic bounce of “Phrack” an additional kick. Byng's chops also are given a good workout in “Viker Raver” in the way he works jazz swing and breakbeats into his playing. With the live drummer removed, the material assumes a rather more programmed feel in its rhythmic presentation, and there are moments when Logan's music turns Autechre-like (see “Photovoltaics,” “Solanoid,” and the nightmarish “Vespine Domain”) but without entirely losing the melodic plot, so to speak. Yet even when they're prominently deployed, it never feels as if the machines have taken over and pushed their human controller aside. One of the album's most memorable tracks is also one of its shortest: the rather Plaid-like “Goose Chatter,” which impresses for the way it combines a straight-up funk groove and a simple yet enticing melodic figure. The 23rd-century hoedown “Straighten,” on the other hand, catches one's ear in presenting some techno-inflected mutation of country swing, whereas “Cyborg Horn” and “Glad Centipede” play like out-takes from some lost collaboration by Autechre and Jon Hassell.

After debuting with the 2007 album Cognessence, Logan branched out into soundtrack work and collaborations with, among others, Brigitte Fontaine, Grace Jones, and Steve Roach. Such a diversity of experiences obviously has served him well, as Flesh exemplifies a conspicuous degree of confidence and assurance. What's particularly noteworthy is that, although the hour-long collection draws upon myriad styles, among them IDM, funk, folk, classical, and electronica, Logan fuses them fluidly such that no one style asserts itself to the exclusion of others. Instead, music of a polyglot character emerges, even if an occasional exotic melody hints at the influence his half-Hungarian background has exerted on his music.

October 2015