The internet connects the world, facilitating and storing a vast expanse of human interaction, knowledge, experience, and art. Musically, this means immediate access to thousands of hours of recorded sound, and the ability for anyone with an internet connection to listen to a huge assortment of music almost at will.
For cachedmedia, a Colorado-based record label, book publisher, and self-described collaboration-centric intermedia platform, the ubiquity of recorded sound in the twenty-first century complicates the idea that music is an ephemeral medium, something that happens only once before slipping into the past. On Flitr, the imprint takes a radically collaborative approach to this problem, handing a curated set of samples (referred to as a “data set”) to a wide variety of artists and giving them almost total artistic freedom. The result is a compilation album of sorts, a sonic chimera that filters the curatorial and creative impulses of thirty-six artists through the ambiguous cloud of the internet.
Flitr consists of thirty-eight tracks of differing length, style, and form. Automating’s “The Kiss”, for instance, is an ambient, droning journey clocking in at over twenty-one minutes, while Sam Gas Can’s “YALL DONT HURT” is an auto-tuned, hyper-pop-tinged interlude sitting at only a minute and a half. Still, the ubiquity of cachedmedia’s samples lend the release a certain cohesion while the individual tracks are far from repetitive. By providing the option for artists to use their own voice together with the data set of samples, cachedmedia opens up room for plenty of spoken-word passages, stories, vocal melodies, and looped vocalizations that prove there’s a human on the other side of the screen, yet the bulk of the sounds on the album still feel distinctly electronic and digital.
As with anything which is truly experimental, not all of these experiments are unalloyed successes. Tracks such as Matt Wenzel’s noisy, carnivalesque patchwork “Boundless Potential vs. The Asymptote” or Noedone’s halloween-tinged “Residents of the Projector” show off alternative uses of Flitr’s sample data set, yet they are also odd, almost campy outliers amidst a more staid field of deep drones and meta-textual poetic reflections. The run time of the record is also dizzying at over four hours, and the disparate styles and approaches of each artist, while often exciting, can become overwhelming over such an expanse of time. Still, stand-out tracks like Sacred Aviary’s peacefully stuttering “09-30-21”, Belly Full of Stars’ “Applausable”, or Billy Gomberg’s whispering closing track “AnIncomplete” are well worth the sifting process.
While Flitr is far from perfect, this seems to be the point: by setting up highly-collaborative and open-ended guidelines for their experiment, chachedmedia has opened up a new door into the possibilities the internet offers for artistic collaboration and the curation of sound. Rather than a finished product, Flitr is an internet artifact in its own right, a research project and a conceptual riddle that reflects the digital age in all its chaotic, overwhelming glory. (Peter Tracy)