Various Artists, Variious
The Summer 2000 edition of Computer Music Journal is subtitled "Encounters with Electronica." This academic journal usually focuses largely on what they call "serious music" or "high art," rather than the "lesser" work of artists who generally create music for popular consumption. So, with this issue, the journal wanted to explore the kinds of electronic music being created in the popular field they called "electronica." So, who did they focus on? Orbital? Autechre? Carl Craig? Nope. The artists examined in this look into "popular" music included Kim Cascone (who wrote one of the articles), Taylor Deupree, Oval, Pan Sonic, Carsten Nicolai, and Fennesz. These are all relatively well-known artists, but I wouldn't really call them "popular."
All this leads me to Intransitive Record's Variious compilation, 2-CD set featuring works from artists such as Taylor Deupree, Richard Chartier, Pimmon, *0, Michael Prime, and a bunch of artists most music fans (even electronic music fans) have never heard of. Intransitive is better known to the electro-acoustic community (the community of "serious" musicians) than other experimental labels like 12k, Line, List, Faalt, Trente Oiseaux, Ritornell, Mego, and Raster-Noton, and it is consequently less known to fans of these other labels. But their music is still not what most asshole academics would call "high art"; in fact, most academics would probably call this stuff "popular." Well, they would be wrong, of course, but so would the people who would stick this release into the "high art" category. The music on this release suggest, to me, a space in-between these two stupid labels, a space where popularity, academic notoriety, and financial success are less important than the desire to create and release interesting, intelligent music.
Variious fuses a variety of different musical approaches together into a seamless whole. Some of the artists featured--especially Taylor Deupree and Richard Chartier--are well known to fans of experimental music. Their tracks, indeed, contain small traces of rhythm and other rhythm-like textures, though (as you might expect from such artists) these traces are less concerned with creating an overall "beat" and more concerned with examining the minute variations that are created when a bunch of little tiny noises come together. However, the bulk of the tracks do not even go that far. Some (like Justin Bennett's "Grasslands" and John Hudak's "Gamelon") are acoustic recordings that have been processed and reshaped by computers, and others (like Michael Prime's "Steam Radio," "Roel Meelkop's "1 (Transition)," and *0's "20k-20-19k-21") are works that take a variety of sounds and process them into a variety of different ways. All of these works are great listening, but only if you are willing to venture into the nebulous realm of weird sounds and twisted ideas.
Variious is Intransitive's first compilation, and acts as a good introduction to this interesting label. The work is especially interesting because it so effortlessly bridges that imaginary gap between "popular" and "serious" electronic musics, in the process demonstrating that those terms mean absolutely nothing. When I listen to Variious, I hear music and just music, and that's all I should hear when I listen to music. Labels are created to prevent us from hearing the many different sounds that the world has to offer. Ignore labels; enjoy music instead. To me, that's the lasting message of this work.
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