Bisk-Ticklish Matters

October 18, 2008

Bisk

Ticklish Matters (Sub Rosa 1998)

http://www.mediafire.com/?xl2cj0eidyi

This one is a puzzle to me. Ten years have passed and it still befuddles me because I cannot make heads nor tails out of it. I cannot compare itto anything because I have yet to hear anything that approximates the dada anti-music compiled on Ticklish Matters. I’ve heard more difficult, noisy and chaotic albums, but none disorient me in the manner of this one. It’s not even a satisfying listen because it jumps from genre to genre, sample to sample and beat to beat every few seconds, but somehow I believe it is one of the more soothing albums I own.Maybe it is due to its frequent usage of drones, classical motifs and quiet, but busy percussion, but its restlessness makes my woes seem like a mellow moment in time.

A few years ago, a Sudanese immigrant came to teach Science at my school. After months of monotonous meetings, he whispered “They are busy being busy.” I felt this was a perfect description of how our administrators puttered about the building making copies, handouts and speeches to create the appearance of progress. Somehow I have flashbacks to these words whenever I hear Ticklish Matters because it is definitely “busy being busy.” So much happens without any progression as this Japanese musician just poofs out clouds of chatter that say nothing, but creates a sense of calm. I feel like I am listening to  an ant farm cannibalising its progeny as samples trample ambient passages while orchestras slowly crush plaintive piano chords. Please don’t expect a difficult listen from my description because it really is an amalgamation of beautiful ideas piled onto one another until nothing quite makes sense. It is one of the most chaotic, but gorgeous albums that I’ve heard.  On first listen, a mess is apparent, but repeated journeys reveal more of its genius amidst the playfulness and insanity.

Savath and Savalas

Folk Songs for Trains, Trees and Honey (Hefty 2000)

http://www.mediafire.com/?ohmo4zj9cqt

I wonder what history will decide when people reappraise the years when the inane terms, post-rock and electronica, were deemed to be relevant. Now, I am no saint since I used these regretful words in my own freelance career, but years have passed and this time seems like a big, fucking blank with few winners. I guess I still listen to Tortoise’s Millions Now Living and the Pan American album along with the Labradords, Prams among others, but neither term says much to me now I’ve heard most sections of the time line that preceded the late 90s.

There was a lot of lumpy prog, flaccid beats and ambient incontinence among the lesser lights. However, there is one album that has sparked a pang of regret about my hardened and revised opinion. Savath and Savalas debut, Folk Songs for Trains, Trees and Honey borrowed and mortgaged the house against these sad sack claims and the end result is something that I can still wholeheartedly endorse today.

The main character behind Savath and Savalas is Scott Herren, who later recorded as Prefuse 73 for the Warp label. He was a bit of a musical sponge and it ill-served him later in his career as he careened between hip-hop, tropicalia, dub, folk and electronic music like a pinball and the results never quite matched the inspiration that was obvious in each attempt.

Folk Songs is different to me because it is remains minimal and only attempts to evoke the slightly funk, sort of ambient and kind of adventurous vibe prevalent during this time. However, there is no “kinda” about it because it is kind of an effortlessly cool album that fits whatever mood matches yours. It is sensual, lazy, funky, psychedelic and intricate and serves as the Rorshach test to your current state of mind. Nothing jumps out and nothing needs to do so. It somehow shifts to meet what I am feeling at the moment and I always liked that about Folk Songs. Sometimes, you need a utilitarian album that never disappoints and this remains firmly rooted in my nightime pile.

Disjecta

Looking For Snags (Warp 1996)

http://www.mediafire.com/?dunbuni9mdi

After Seefeel’s demise, the rest went off to capitalize on the electronica train under the guises of Scala and Locust. Both of these offshoots had many worthwhile moments, but they lacked the cohesive vision and dedication to repetition that drove Seefeel’s marriage of shoegaze, dub and drone. Although Daren Seymour influenced their sound, Mark Clifford was in the drivers seat for much of Seefeel’s work. This is readily apparent in his work as Disjecta. After Seefeel’s demise, he remained with the Warp label and recorded a couple eps as well as this full length effort. All of them seem like the logical extension of their swansong Succour as the soothing sounds of Quique continue to be replaced by more beat-driven material. By no means is Disjecta danceable, but Clifford assimilates the sounds of hip-hop, Autechre and the unfortunately named IDM movement into his psychedelic drones. Actually, I prefer this to Succour and I love that album quite a bit. He recently resurfaced to release an ep that is pretty damn great. It eliminates the beats and explores a Cluster vibe heretofore unseen in his work. Personally, I wish every member of this band could regain their footing, but years have passed and the rest have not delivered anything of note in years.

Aphex Twin

Donkey Rhubarb ep (Warp/Sire 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?0bidmzbjzmv

Man, I still am amenable to spending a couple hours listening to Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Every buzz and drone sings to my weary soul. Love it just as much as the day I picked it up from a godforsaken Western PA chain store on the day of its release. Now, I like most of his ouvre, but everything he released after this ep makes me wish he expanded on the themes and ideas located here. Donkey Rhubarbs is the most concise summary of all that was good about Richard D. James before he began giggling in his tank and posing for the Wire with pantyhose over his noggin.

Each of the four tracks represent four sides of Aphex Twin. The last two tracks are perfect summations of his rapidfire take on idm, Detroit techno and acid while the openers explore terrain that was sadly abandoned.

“Pancake Lizard” starts the ep in dramatic fashion. It actually redeems trip-hop as a genre instead of the 99-pound weakling it truly was. Outside of Portishead and possiblly Tricky’s debut, name me one worthwhile trip-hop album. Slowed down hip-hop beats, limp drones and diva rejects abounded in this misguided genre. However, Aphex Twin treats the genre like a soundtrack as he melds the slow-motion drama of Selected Ambient Works and grafts it to a simple, but effective beat that ultimately wields all of the tension trip-hop lacked.

However, “Icct Hedral” is the one that really hurts. Why couldn’t he have explored the world of George Crumb, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Lalo Schifrin as he does here. This collaboration with Glass is breathtaking and frustrating because he never really delved into classical music in such a way ever again. From the forboding chorus and thick bass to the delicate idm tinkling replicated by a string section, this track shows a side of Richard D. James that could’ve been groundbreaking. Before anyone complains, he did use strings and incorporate elements of classical music into his music, but this track is a grandiose moment that points to what should have been. Instead, his attention span got the better of him and jokey drill and bass was the next step.