Untitled No. 4 is the latest in a series of releases that are ironically titled Untitled. This irony fits the series, which continues to defy expectation. One cannot predict what each installment will bring, only that the music will be bold and intriguing.
The press release calls Troy Schafer‘s work “a brain-scrambler,” which suggests that even they can’t figure it out, but the outlines are fairly clear. The advantage of these releases is that they exist in bite-sized chunks. Listeners can approach them as double sided singles, and proceed from there. In this instance, Side A does contain a repeated, dissonant piano line, which jumps, stops, withdraws and re-enters, metamorphosed. The ivories are surrounded by caustic blasts of feedback, seemingly beamed in from another plane. The center even yields a few moments of dark breath and chortled song, mocking the idea of melody. The final 32 seconds do offer something accessible, reminding the listener that Schafer can go that route when he chooses.
Side B sounds like the amplified guts of an electric wind-up toy. The music scrapes and crawls, occasionally pausing for a bout of distant laughter. There’s purpose in these grooves, which bear glimmers of Schafer’s violin training while shattering the rule book. Together, the four entires in this series demonstrate the gravitational tug of abstraction; as Schafer’s solo career progresses, he continues to tumble into a black hole of compressed instrumentation. The Untitled series might eventually lead to an album, but that’s not the point; these works are updates from a mind on fire. (Richard Allen)