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Nuel: Hyperboreal
Further Records

Strategy: Information Pollution
Further Records

In a career filled with left turns, Information Pollution (issued in an edition of 500 vinyl copies, 100 blue and 400 black) might be the most extreme left turn yet from Portland producer Paul Dickow under the Strategy name. Somewhat reminiscent of early Scanner pushed to its logical extreme, the recording's experimental content is about as far removed from Dickow's forays into dance music, whether it be house or his own idiosyncratic take on World Music, as one might imagine possible. By his own estimation Information Pollution “is the audio equivalent of photographing the oil slicks that appear in the puddles of parking lots.” That's a clever way of foregrounding its avant character for anyone so inclined to investigate it.

As often happens in such cases, Information Pollution developed out of unusual circumstances. Having moved into a new home with only a modest amount of space for his gear, Dickow decided to work with only a few pieces at a time, one being an old Akai reel-to-reel tape deck with tube pre-amps he inherited from his father and the others radios and homemade effects boxes. Working with these devices, he midwifed the album's four sound collages into being, doing so live and without the aid of samples or synths. Shortwave sounds and muffled dispatches from ambulance, parking, and school bus channels all become fodder for Dickow's on-the-fly alchemization, and it's hard not to think of him as some kind of modern-day action painter, albeit one working with audio material instead of oils.

Though spam, commercials, advertising, and junk mail typically are regarded as unwanted intrusions into our lives, Dickow subverts their invasive character by not only using the sounds as raw material for his productions but negating their communicative potential by obscuring their intended messages. Any attempt to bring the voices in “Public Voyeurs,” for example, to some degree of clarity is met with futility when they're smothered in static and noise, even at one particularly noisy moment obliterated in a radiophonic detonation. For all we know, the garbled speaker could be someone prattling on about an upcoming assembly during a school's morning announcements or complaining to a radio host about the latest tax hike. Much the same happens during “Relix” and “Tower of Babble,” though in this case the distorted voices are buried under crushing waves of woozy snarl and industrial noise. Dickow manages to keep his dance producer tendencies at bay with the exception of “Fossil Data,” which distances itself from the others when a neo-technoid pulse lurches alongside the babbling voices and noise smears.

No matter how murky the material gets, Dickow's sensibility remains in place, and, in fact, anyone familiar with the material he and David Chandler (aka Solenoid) have released on Community Library will recognize Information Pollution as being very much consistent with that label's spirit. In which part of the record store would one find the album? The experimental section, no doubt, or perhaps ambient, though the recording's more precisely a noise-ambient exercise.

Italian DJ/producer Manuel Fogliata might be better known at this stage for the Aquaplano recordings he issued with Donato Dozzy a few years ago than the solo work he's released under the Nuel alias. That might change with the release of Hyperboreal (issued in a vinyl edition of 500, 100 blue/green and 400 black), the full-length follow-up to his 2011 Further Records set Trance Mutation. That earlier release embraced a minimal aesthetic in being created entirely with a single microphone and handful of instruments, and the new one accomplishes something similar using slightly different means. To create Hyperboreal, Fogliata used a single semi-modular synth, the now-discontinued Ekdahl Polygamist, plus a handful of pedals, and in keeping with the minimalist spirit recorded the album's six tracks in only a few days during October 2014 at the Rome apartment of Giuseppe Tillieci (aka Neel, one-half of Voices From The Lake).

An exercise in machine-metal ambient, “Steppin' Stone” initiates the album somewhat forbiddingly with grinding industrial pulsations that threaten to build into something painfully ferocious but mercifully don't. That chilly overture (the album is, after all, titled Hyperboreal) segues into the more approachable “Polaris,” whose rotor-like swirl and distorted chatter call to mind nothing other than the opening minutes of Monolake's Hongkong; in merging what sounds like the vocalizations of indeterminate species and the loud whirring of helicopter blades, Fogliata generates a soundworld that's daunting yet also undeniably arresting. When the title track arrives as a seething soundpainting drenched in viperous rattles and howling noise, one can't help but be impressed by the range of sounds the producer coaxed from the Polygamist.

The album doesn't deviate from its established path on side two. “-Om” might be less of a blizzard than the title track, but it still oozes controlled, ice-cold fury in its combination of piercing electrical shudder and groaning beat pulsation. In the penultimate slot, “Be Well” captures a seeming orgy of synthesized flutter and collapsing machines, after which “The Rest is Noise” (a nod to Alex Ross's book?) takes the album out on waves of synth drones and rumble. All things considered, Fogliata deserves credit for challenging the listener with a collection that's anything but easy listening, and give the Seattle-based Further Records credit too for providing an outlet for his Nuel project. One presumes he could easily have crafted six accessible exercises in ambient dub-techno that would appeal to a larger audience but instead chose bold experimentalism as the artistic route.

March 2016