“This music has no purpose other than it is”, writes Mike Fazio of his musical guise A Guide for Reason. We wll be happy to amend that statement, because listeners may use this odd music for other purposes: relaxation, mood enhancement, the satisfaction of an avid curiousity. We imprint ourselves on our icons, transforming them into our projections, whether or not they care. (They don’t.) The bowler-topped figure on the cover may be worshipping a triangle, or an image of a triangle, or an imitation of the Eye of Horus, but his look of ownership and expectation (“Mine!”) is akin to that of a music collector who has just acquired a rare limited edition. Of course most hard copies are limited of late, but Iconography has an especially small run.
The third in an ongoing series that began with I-VI and continued with VII-VIII, Iconography is the first entry to bear a non-numerical title and is also the least abstract of the three. This does not, however, make it accessible. Four tracks, 75 minutes, no radio hits. And yet one can almost – almost – imagine edits of these tracks appearing in clubs, or even in the background of a Kanye West song. “Hero” is beat-happy in such a way as to celebrate the beat, the rhythm, and the steadiness of sound, despite an early change in tempo. The track captures the pace and the purpose of a club hit without allowing its timbre to approach club status. It’s both a skeleton and an homage.
The more dronelike “Heroin” flirts with static and hum, daring listeners to find an access point. Yes, it seems to be saying, I could, but why? To paraphrase Fazio, “it is what it is”, and when it pivots mid-piece to hiss and clack, one thinks of a very miffed feline in a factory; but then, as if relenting, Fazio allows a brief series of beats to emerge. The final 2:59 seems to stand alone, looking back on the preceding minutes through synthesized eyes, judging with impunity. This isn’t the future, but an alternate present. Even when drums and bass emerge in “Goddess”, the listener stays suspicious, and these suspicions are rewarded when the rug is pulled from under the feet. The dance continues to the bitter end, with neither side gaining much traction. After the 22-minute closer has faded, the listener is left to wonder, “Could there really be no other purpose?” But of course there is: to prompt conversation about expectation and execution. Faith Strange is a perfect name for Fazio’s label, as his releases rest just on the periphery of understanding, icons in their own right. (Richard Allen)