In today's world of experimental music, many releases consist of uninspired and hastily thrown-together layers of random noise and processed instruments. Small Life form, however, is the real deal. The project of Silber Records head Brian John Mitchell, Small Life Form draws its influences and basis from the old-school techniques of musique concrete and musique electronique. Five years in the making, One is a collection of 7 tracks of processed sound recorded live in real time without overdubs.
Apparently, the album is designed for all tracks to be played back at the same time and looped to create a sound collage of infinite length. Therefore, a single 7 track CD is an unfortunate and problematic presentation of the material seeing as how the only way to play the tracks at once is to either buy 7 copies of the album (or burn 6 copies from the original) and play them on 7 different CD players or go through the trouble of ripping the CD to your computer and importing the .wav or mp3 files into a multitrack recording program. This might be feasible for an experimental electronic music concert of some type or perhaps even for a musician with a home recording studio. Unfortunately, however, most listeners don't have the equipment or ability (or determination, for that matter) to listen to this recording in the way that was intended.
Being the conscientious reviewer that I am, I actually took the time to rip all 7 tracks to .wav files and mix and loop them in my home studio in order to properly experience the album. The result was a breathtaking wall of noise with both dissonant and melodic content formed from the interaction of the piece's seven components. General melodic content and character (as well as some dissonance) rose from the interplay between "horns", "organ", and "melodica" while "small" (a track made up of processed voices) and "cymbal" provided extra body and definition. "Golden" gave an extra high-end boost to the mixture while the filtered-noise quality of "Pulsar" (apparently a vera pulsar as observed through a radio telescope) really added a strong stereo component to the mix with panning sweeps and swells of intensity. A constant drone from my subwoofer combined with the rest of the sounds to create a beautiful ethereal mass of sweeping sound with something of an orchestral quality. It was definitely a spectacular experience and an excellent piece of work.
While the idea of multiple tracks meant to be played at the same time with varying starting points and looping is by no means a new or original idea (in fact, the idea was even introduced to mainstream audiences by The Flaming Lips on their Zaireeka release, which also contained the required number of CDs to play the entire album at once if enough CD players were present), One is still a very compelling release that uses the concept to its full potential. I imagine it would be extremely interesting to play this album in a setting where each track could be played through a different set of speakers, allowing you to experiment with speaker positions and acoustics. Unfortunately, as I said, most listeners won't be able to hear this interesting composition in its intended form at all much less hear it through equipment that would allow for additional sound experimentation and acoustic manipulation of the elements of the recordings. In short, it's a brilliant, ever-evolving composition of infinite length when played as one piece that will unfortunately be experienced by most listeners as 7 separate, droning and far less compelling tracks each containing one component of a much greater whole.Silber Records: www.silbermedia.com
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