c. reider / jeph jerman ~ pop variations

pop variations coverDuring the heyday of vinyl consumption, format aficionados would return a copy of a record when it contained too many pops and clicks ~ even quicker when it contained scratches and skips.  A pristine copy was a cherished copy.  This preference led directly to the proliferation of CDs ~ no more pops and clicks!  Now that the world has proven it cares little for the “best possible copy” (digital is fine!), fans have settled into a soft vinyl nostalgia, and in the supremest irony, are embracing entire releases comprised of pops and clicks.  Many experimental artists have preceded reider and jerman ~ the most recent that come to mind are Åke Parmerud’s Grooves (2011) and L. Pierre’s Surface Noise (2013).  But reider and jerman bring something new to the table by approaching the sounds from a less rhythmic angle.  Only the opening moments suggest that this half-hour piece might break into a tempo-driven piece; after this, it’s all texture and abstraction.

The inspiration for the piece is a 12-minute lathe cut sent from jerman to reider.  reider then processed the sounds, adjusting pitch and tempo, and in some cases creating hybrid sounds so far from their sources that they barely suggest vinyl.  Instead, they imitate crunching mandibles or electric surges.  While listening, one travels quickly from nostalgia to curiosity ~ can these sounds all stem from the once-despised pop?  As reider’s bio indicates, he is interested in the sound of “things losing form,” and that’s certainly the result here.  In the seventh minute, the first of many whirrs appears; in the eighth, a spaceship swirl.  These may be echoes or amplifications, but they are nothing like the glitches vinyl fans are accustomed to hearing.  As for the tuba timbre in the eleventh, it’s anyone’s guess.

The implications fall into the realm of science fiction.  What’s in a pop, anyway?  When we hear the static of bursting stars, we know that sound can contain weight as well as wavelength.  One imagines earth’s degraded radio waves reaching distant galaxies, light years from now.  And what will they make of such transmissions?

Just past the halfway point, the composition has ascended (or descended) into drone: a cacophony of crackle.  It’s as if all of the mistakes of all of the world’s records were playing at once, canceling each other out like multi-colored beams combining to form white light.  How did something so ugly become so beautiful?  And how did non-music become music?  reider opens worlds of possibility by applying his sonic magnifying glass to jerman’s lathe cut.  If this is what’s in between the grooves, maybe one can dispense of the grooves altogether ~ which is exactly what these artists have done here on pop variations, a digital-only release.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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