303 Committee ~ 303 Committee / Nine Angles

303 CommitteeThe real-life 303 Committee was a United States government agency, active during the Cold War, that oversaw covert and clandestine actions.  This task force has been associated with conspiracies and cover-ups, and has even been the inspiration for a video game. 303 Committee (Ryan Huber’s latest pseudonym) presents murky drones along with thinly-veiled field recordings, operating in much the same fashion.  The difference is that Huber’s music celebrates the hidden and mysterious instead of sweeping it under the rug. This is a change of sorts for the artist, whose more bombastic recordings have been presented under the guises of Sujo and Olekranon, among others.  No military drums are heard here, no brass constructions. If Sujo is the army, 303 Committee is the C.I.A.  As one listens, one begins to think, tinker, tailor, soldier, spy.  

As might be expected from such shadowy inspiration, the music is cloudy and damp.  The self-titled release sounds like a conspiracy.  Someone or something is singing in “Junta”, but who or what?  And is this a trap?  “Opium King” is even thicker, yet through the fog one can hear – or thinks one hears – the sound of airplane motors and sounding beacons, as if a coup d’état or incursion is underway.  The concluding duo, “A Sinking Ship/Aught”, is mixed together with an unbroken note, and draws the album from loud to soft like an incident followed by a hush.  At the end, we hear the sound of what may be a train: a man with a secret file, slipping away.

The cover is wisely chosen, an all-seeing eye in shades of charcoal grey.  Members of the original 303 Committee (and trust us, it still exists under a different name) would argue that the entire world is a rainbow of grey, with each color another degree of uncertainty.  They are indeed watching, or they’d like us to think they are, and in certain nations, paranoia has made the distinction moot.  If anyone were to make a documentary exposing their secrets, this album would make the perfect soundtrack. Unfortunately, the whole thing would likely be redacted.

Nine AnglesFast-forward a month, and we find that the committee has stepped up its efforts.  A file folder (grey, of course) has been leaked, displaying the image of a middle-aged man suspected of covert operations, or perhaps simply upsetting the status quo.  His expression is bleak, with only a trace of defiance – something that will likely be purged from his system after a few rounds.  Now that a face has been connected to the sound, listeners may interpret the cloud cover in a different fashion.  Nine Angles is a study in slow, menacing disruption: worms burrowing into the brain, producing a flourescent hum that scatters concentration.  Even when the loudest of drones retreat, as they do for most of the title track, the listener knows that they continue to lurk outside the threshold of perception.  Open the door, and the flies come in.  Is the man guilty?  If guilty, are the charges valid?  By the end, it doesn’t matter; he’ll confess.

The ambitious 13-minute closing piece introduces what may be the sound of sharpening knives, the mental anguish before the inquisition.  Cold Meat Industry would find the sound fitting.  Why show when one can imply?  The synthesized tones of the final few minutes wrap the suite up like a string around a folder.  Wherever this man is going, he won’t be seen again.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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