How much fun is Erin Demastes having? For Thing Music, The LA-based artist arranged objects by color, then recorded them. Her obsessive-compulsive technique has a simple appeal that makes us want to try it at home. The irony of these abstractions is that they sometimes seem to have no rhyme or reason, while they not only have rhyme and reason, but phylum and genus. A musical mind is behind the synesthesia.
“Pink” may not sound pink at first, with all the crankings and rustlings, but then the rubber bands come into play, eventually dominating the sound field. Now one starts to think of pink rubber bands, how they might be used and who might use them. In a section of her website, the artist sells boxes of multicolored rubber bands, as well as a Slinky box, bead box, noise maze and button. There’s no denying that she goes all out. Other characters include “a milk crate, a plastic record player, wind-up toys, a large metal spring, cellophane, styrofoam, mini Solo cups and a hose wheel.” The track develops a percussive repetition and ends in cacophony. “Orange” is more toylike, as the sound of a “bouncy ball” sparks intimations of childhood. We see the trick-or-treat pumpkin on the cover, astride a toy xylophone. Something like a choo-choo train traverses the speakers. Compact and dronelike, the piece is the natural first single. Not since Taw’s Truce Terms have we heard a piece so playful. Orange you glad we didn’t say “banana?” Of course we didn’t; bananas are yellow.
How many yellow things do we have in our homes? If yours is like mine, the answer is “not many.” The primary category is likely garden implements, and “Yellow” has an outdoor feel, like rakes and buckets not being used for their primary purposes, the crinkling of yellow boots, a reluctant gardener puttering around, avoiding work. Erin seems to be singing a bit as well. Is she yellow? In her photos, she’s blond; good enough. By “Green,” we encounter strange mechanical sounds, which seem intimidating until the traffic section of toy cars, whistles and harmonicas. As toddlers say, “Again! Again!”
The longest track, “Blue,” is the closest to accessible, due to its repeated, tempo driven base. A cashew can and portable fan provide the hints. Matmos comes to mind, as recent albums have centered around plastic objects and a washing machine. “Purple” confounds the ear, as it’s so hard to think of purple things that are not plush. Marbles? Onions? Plastic Barney? At least we’re confident in assigning the Solo cup to “Red,” although it’s a surprise to hear something like a gong: a “real” musical instrument among the improvised. What started as a seemingly random exercise has gained order along the way. By the end, one sees the method in the madness, the composer in the chaos, the tidying of musical notes that mimics the color assignments. These “things” have personalities to spare. (Richard Allen)