Our old friend Nicolas Burrage (formerly Szczepanik) has returned as the founder of the digital label Nomad Exquisite. The label has issued a call for submissions of 7-13 minutes long (tagging them “miniatures”), and has already begun to issue some gems. “The more you push yourself out of your creative comfort zone,” they write, “the more eager we are to listen.”
While the time restriction was prompted by the “brevity of life,” it’s easy to view the label as a natural response to the modern era of short attention spans and A.D.D. The natural forerunner of the label is Audio Gourmet, who has been releasing EPs of similar length since 2010, albeit with a purposely ambient bent. Nomad Exquisite is more experimental in tone, to the extent that some releases dance on the outskirts of accessibility. Take for example the label’s first release, more eaze‘s ((( still ))), which stops and starts, erasing melodies just as they begin. On the one hand, the title track sounds like someone searching through radio stations; on the other, one realizes that the station is the same despite the silences between. The repeated word “still” fights against the very idea of stillness; one spoken, the word is both force and opposition. As the electronic arpeggios grow in “free shipping,” one feels that the silence has ended; but the plug is swiftly pulled. In this instance, ten and a half minutes allows listeners just enough time to connect with the concept.
Percussionist Ted Byrnes makes an intense racket on Studies in, hitting a variety of objects (including “water drum, bells, rocks, metal pipes, and coffee cans”) with his bare hands. “Drums” is relatable, but “Bells” is intense. Either Byrnes has extra appendages like the percussionist of “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” or he’s just that good. “Metal, Rocks, Skin” sounds like a Tarab project on overload; there’s no attempt at subtlety here. This makes Studies in the perfect counter-balance for ((( still ))): one raw, the other calculated; one tactile, the other mechanical. At just over seven minutes, it’s destined to be one of the label’s shorter releases, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in power.
The next pair of releases are only a week away. Again, they form an intriguing couple. Massimo Magee‘s With Blasting Fancies And With Mildews of Despair is a single eight-minute track, surprisingly soothing despite its static-based sound. The project is meant to be heard as well as scanned, which allows a computer to “read” it in two different ways. Arriving at three seconds under the limit is Midcentury Modular‘s Summit 1, which is also computer-generated, but with a more active array of synthesized sounds. In the first project we hear despair, in the second encouragement; in the first stasis, in the second gleeful agitation. Nomad Exquisite can be proud of its first quartet. The only questions that remain are 1) How many distinct projects can they release before an idea is repeated and 2) How long will it take before their in-boxes are flooded? For now, submissions are wide open; creative artists, start your engines. (Richard Allen)