When an artist is represented by a swirled face, one thinks, a) this person is in the Witness Protection Program; b) this person is a chameleon, and/or c) oh no, I hope this is not his real face. As it turns out, Australian composer/sound artist Sam Gillies is b). He’s worked with chamber ensembles, soundtracked short films, and provided the accompaniment to dance recitals. He also plays in a piano/laptop duo, an analogue/digital/acoustic trio, and an 11-piece indie rock band. But wait, there’s more! He hosts a public radio program called Difficult Listening, and – like us – writes music reviews.
For many, Music for Computers will be difficult listening: raw data files processed, crunched and regurgitated. But Gillies’ sense of rhythm and form keeps the release strangely palatable, full of context and direction. With five tracks in only 18 minutes, he doesn’t leave himself a lot of room, so he packs a great deal into each track: buzzes, flutters, feedback and blast. He allows little time for each track to build, but the EP is all about breaking down; it’s the program that struggles to load, the disc dislodged from its drive, the metal in the microwave, the stick in the spokes. And yet, it’s also tempo-driven, like a washing machine with an ailing belt: squeechTHUNK, squeechTHUNK, wobble wobble wobble. There’s beauty in this noise: an elegant, contrary beauty, the type often noticed by those who cherish the discarded and overlooked. To love what others consider unlovable is a rare gift; to present it to others in such a way as to gain their appreciation is even rarer, and that’s exactly what the artist manages to accomplish here. (Richard Allen)