Mechanic Album Review & Notes by Martin Booe
Updated: May 17
"Mono No Aware"
by Martin Booe.
I started streaming a pre-release mix of Disinclined thinking I’d listen to a song and a half just to get a taste. After the first few seconds I dropped everything and just listened from beginning to end. I can’t remember when the last time I did that was. From the downbeat of the opening movement, Army, you know you’re in fo
r some serious cold fusion. Slushy groove, chicken scratch guitar. At first you think it’s for dancing but now there’s there are strings overhead at about the level of clouds. The bass oozes in like hot tar from a primeval pit before as these energies coalesce into a march. Army. Ah, ominous title. You visualize people marching in step, but this is a different kind of march than we’ve been hearing. It has the power of optimism.
As it progresses, the soldiers of the sun gather force and intention. We come into a clearing. Out of the market, into the wind… the lyrics are fragmentary juxtapositions that function more on the level of incantation than narrative. We steer into an instrumental passage, a study in intervals between high frequency lead guitar humming off a bass-line that’s dropped through the floor and is two stories underground. The track then resolves into a hip hop incantation recalling one back to a pre-conditioned state.
The next track, Audiolove, begins with an elusive chord that walks between dissonance and melody before untwining and resolving into a lift with strings. Throughout, Toddy Ivy’s vocals, by turns ethereal, sassy and [few other adjectives], haunt the rhythm-driven instrumental underlay with the interpretive nuance of a concerto soloist. Pacing, both from moment to moment (Mince’s nuanced and evocative drumming) and as a collection, is one of this work’s outstanding virtues. It coheres as a piece.
It is worth knowing the method behind Disinclined’s manifestation, but this knowledge comes with a price, so here’s the spoiler alert: My not knowing the method was the missing planet that really drew me into it. I sensed something different in the warp and woof of the material from the moment the first song played. A kind of electrical current running through it that was visceral yet intangible. So I went into it not understanding that Disinclined was composed and performed through the lense of musique concrete, but in a way that might well be a pioneering effort toward its re-interpretation and revitalization. At the time, I didn’t know that the album was Jeff’s idea for reinterpreting musique concrete. And this made the actual method behind the manifestation all the more compelling.
Let’s rewind it back to the eighties and nineties, when Jeff was touring the globe with the likes of Nina Hagen, etc, he went walking about wearing binaural microphones, recording sounds as they hit his ears. Their selection is random but their trailing their appearance are a chain of dependent links that recede into infinity. They are at once utterly meaningless and representative of source vibration.
The word “source” is the crux of the matter here. How do you revitalize mainstream western music after it’s absorbed every flavor that non-western music has to offer -- and still it feels reconstituted and spiritless. The esthetic of mainstream music is fundamentally anti-creative; the challenge is to stamp out every trace of originality to create and easy-glide-applicator that get into the universal bloodstream without notice. The point is to offer the listener no challenge. (Those who succeed are a certain breed of evil genius, many of them hatched from the pods left behind eons ago by malicious gods and angry regional guardians.)
At the other end of the spectrum are the esthetes who suffer from overactive status comparators and have lost the stream of essence.
But mostly Sound has become Corporate and music is replicated from the most recent hits, adding another layer of gilding to a crumbling edifice that was layered over a swamp in the first place. This is how Musick as a primal force of transformation has been harnessed to the yoke of late stage heroic materialism and so neutered, de-fanged. Musicians rally and mount a defense but it all sounds like it slid out of a 3-D printer. Defiance runs no deeper than attitude, and everyone seems more concerned with what they’ll wear to the revolution than what they’ll do to win it. (If we are lucky, fashion will co-opt fascism and we can all go home). Praise the Lord and pass the adderall, ya’ll. Is it raining red heifers yet? And as it happens, here is a perfect example of REFER TO TRACK WITH EVANGELIST ON IT.
If music, as Plato said, is a moral law, it must stay connected to its source or it becomes toxic--as it most certainly has. The symphonic giants of composition took and take much inspiration from the sounds of nature. The supreme blues masters create from experience. Even show tunes arise from recognizable situations. But there comes a point where you’ve heard it all before and these three-act structures of conflict-complication-resolution become as predictable and poisonous as they are addictive. You can’t get enough of what you don’t really want.
So what Jeff did is fundamentally different from the first floor up: He let these pieces of fixed media speak to him until took these samples and heard parts, starting with the drums, which would become the first layer of instrumental musical interpretation. So from this overheated piece of ore escapes music, like a gust of vapor from a crack in the earth.