V/A ~ Foldout

FoldoutThe classic Surrealist parlour game Exquisite Corpse challenges participants to contribute a part of an image or a sentence on a segment of folded paper while others contribute the rest.  Imagine Soundcloud as a piece of paper, and you’ve got Foldout.  One musician started the chain, and 17 subsequent musicians were challenged to attach their short works to the tail end of the existing thread.  The result is a smooth-flowing 43-minute track that operates like a seamless mixtape.  The surprise is that it works so well.  With so many participants, one might expect at least one of them to put ego in front of collaboration, throwing a monkey wrench into the game ~ but it never happens.  The “folds” ~ segments of connection ~ integrate the elements of the previous segments so well that they honor both the idea and the label: no missteps, no jarring leaps, no jagged edges.  Those who have played the paper game know the satisfaction of an aligned project; those who have played this sonic game should feel an exponentially higher sense of satisfaction.

Foldout_the_processConsider for a moment the difficulty of the challenge.  On the front end, artists needed to connect their work to a pre-existing work, despite having different tools at home.  With only 2-3 minutes at their disposal, each had to create a distinctive work, moving quickly to their own material.  The back end offered a dual challenge: up the ante for the next participant while keeping the notches visible.  No artist knew in advance if their track would be the last; that honor is reserved for Marginal Boots featuring Sunbody, and it’s a good thing, because it would be somewhat unwieldy to latch another car onto their speeding train of sputtering saxophone.

This is exactly the sort of experiment we love: a project that brings something new to the table.  At any given point, the listener may be hearing as many as three artists at work, all contributing previously unheard material; and the mix is a single track, so a sonic microscope is needed to find the folds.  As such, the mix invites listeners to focus more on the elements than artists or songs.  My own favorite spots:  the opening bicycle wheel (Scaly Whale), Zimmer-G’s offbeat clock (10:03), Digital Midgets’ percussive burst and bass (16:48) and a similarly active section that rises from a sample in the 21st minute (Route 24).  By this point in the mix, identities are subsumed for a higher cause.  By the time we get to Machinefabriek (Artist #15), we have already been sucked into the mix, and are no longer concerned about who’s doing what: we’re more interested in the foldout.  (Richard Allen)

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