Various Artists, Two Point Two
Two Point Two is the second compilation from 12/Line. Like the first, Between Two Points, this one is chopped into two disks. The first disc features music from the 12k label, while the second disc features music from the Line label. Of the two labels, 12k is the more successful, having released some of the best electronic music of the past few years (Sogar's Apikal Blend and Shuttle358's Frame, just to name two). However, Line also has made a name for itself with uncompromising minimal releases such as Richard Chartier's Of Surfaces and Bernhard Gunter's Monochrome triptych. Together, these are the two best electronic labels in the United States, and this release is a must-have for every electronic music fan.
Disc one features eleven tracks from 12k's stellar lineup. Label founder and head, Taylor Deupree, gives us "Unnatural Template," which is an excellent work of nanotech electronics, where sound fragments rearrange themselves in a variety of interesting and exciting ways. Another interesting work is "Looping 4 = D" by Komet (aka Frank Bretschneider), who steps away from his traditional minimal funk to throw in an unusually abstract, circular work. One of the interesting things the 12k disc offers is a series of collaborative tracks, where different 12k artists merge their ideas and styles to create something truly unique. One of these collaborative tracks is Doron Sadja and Motion's "3small," which is a churning, frothy work that begins as a collage of bubbling, hissing, and spurting noise fragments and then pairs them down and sorts them into a rhythmic structure; it's a fascinating work because it is so unlike the work that these two artists create on their own. Another notable collaboration is between Deupree and Line label boss Richard Chartier; their "Specification.Fourteen" begins with a series of pauses and tones that are more reminiscent of Chartier's ultra minimalism than Deupree's digital surgery, but as the track moves forward, Deupree-like burbles and gurgles spring up and overwhelm the Chartier sine waves, so that, in the end, both are crunching up against one another in a tug-of-war over aural supremacy. It's a great track.
The last track on disc one is also the longest: Kenneth Kirschner's 24-minute "June 8, 2003." Why put such a long track on a compilation? Well, because it's Kenneth Kirschner, an artist of incredible skill and uncompromising quality. And this track is perhaps one of Kirschner's best, an epic soundscape that begins with a simple melodic string, which then transforms into buzzing and hissing steam pipes, and into canyon-like echoes and underwater bubbles and tropical forests and campfires and on and on. It's remarkable. If surpasses anything on Kirschner's most recent release, and it's the finest work on disc one.
If that's not enough, however, get this: disc two does not only feature wonderful tracks by some of Line's best artists (Steve Roden, Chartier, and Steinbrüchel), but its final two tracks are by two of the best electronic artists working today: William Basinski and Coh. Basinski's "Worry," at a paltry six minutes, pales in comparison to the artist's sweeping, 90-minute The River, which is the best release of 2003 (and one of the finest electronic albums I've ever heard). However, "Worry" is still an amazing work. It consists of a simple, repeating loop of moaning synth chords; the loop increases in volume and force as the track progresses, but it never really breaks out or explodes in one direction or another. Rather, it stands continually on the verge of escape, much like a person continually worrying about something stands continually on the verge of finding that worrying problem come true. It's a tense, elliptical work that is beautifully crafted and executed.
Coh (whose real name is Ivan Pavlov) gained renown for his wonderful Masks of Birth, which is a blistering fusion of industrial terror and electrical delight. His track here, ".and Shuttled Across the Sky," is equally memorable, but in an entirely different way. It is split into two parts. The first part bears the hallmarks of a field recording-chirping, dripping, and other "found sounds" echo and float around amidst the silence of the universe. Then there's an explosion, and the second part begins, with those same chirping, dripping and found sounds digitally transformed into an array of shifting, repetitive waves.
To me, the work suggests that the sounds we create on computers are little more than echoes of the sounds we hear (but do not listen to) in everyday life. In a way, that's the whole point of this compilation: to offer interesting, intelligent electronic artists a chance to explore the very nature of sound by breaking sound up into its component parts and reordering them in new and interesting ways. The end result of these explorations is a work of true passion and dedication, created by artists whose foremost impetus is to create interesting, beautiful music.
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