The latest release from the Minneapolis microlabel Nada (read: get one now or none will be left) combines the efforts of three experimental musicians, whose blend of field recordings, amplified objects and electronics yields intriguing results. As the specialty areas of these artists overlap, it’s impossible to play match-up with the many gurgles, scrapes, knocks and drones. Multiple plays are necessary to get to the heart of the matter, which shifts from spin to spin. icgs el, like the work of Ennio Mazzon, offers no road map. Instead, listeners are invited to go off-round in order to investigate new territory.
Those looking for an access point – something “real” on which to hang one’s hat – might concentrate on the brief bursts of radio conversation or snatches of song found in “kumtor”. If these samples provide the grounding, the rest can be seen in relief. A radio conversation typically comes across as pre-scripted, and a musical conversation as fluid. A song tends to follow basic compositional rules; a sonic experiment does not. As precise as these pops and whirrs may be, they are neither entirely planned nor entirely random. These artists split the difference, allowing for the opportunity of surprise to overtake them. Xedh is known for his compositional approach, Lali Barrière for her improvisational approach, and Noish for his deconstructive approach. Combine these three, and one can expect to find both tension and control; or otherwise (and this does not happen here) an unholy mess.
A keen sense of spacial dynamics keeps these tracks in balance. There’s only so much sonic territory to go around, and the mastering separates sounds by speaker (pings to the left, chains to the right), depth (high pitches in the foreground, hums in the back) and duration (static sequences giving way to electronic notes and vice versa). A sonic equilibrium is reached, as the sounds act like marbles on a solitaire board, each in their proper place. Thankfully, it’s not only these sounds that are separated from each other, but the type of sounds; the field is in constant flux. Ironically, despite the presence of so many electronic elements, the album best imitates a real-life phenomena: the claiming of sonic space by different creatures, at different frequencies, at different times of day. icgs el thus becomes the oddest of creations, an album that is dominated by created and manipulated sources, yet which mirrors nature’s form. (Richard Allen)