[AMBIENT BLISS] Listening to Matt McCormick's Very Stereo not long ago, a friend remarked that "Elevator Muzac" sounded like an old desktop computer's last, drawn-out bleep before crashing. That increasingly modulated tone is then joined by what sounds like the mashing of a telephone touchpad. It's spare and nearly inaccessible to anyone searching for music in the proper (narrative, virtuosic, made with "real" instruments) sense.
This is how Matt McCormick—a tremendously talented filmmaker by day (see culture feature, here)—operates. The poetic visual beauty of the industrial and urban landscapes that McCormick captures on film are as unlikely as the soundscapes he composes/documents on Very Stereo. (Many of the tracks were composed as accompaniments to his films, which is detailed in the disc's liner notes). And the album's stunningly basic (think Eno's Music for Airports) stretches of ambient bliss are fashioned—appropriately—by primitive music tools: Moogs, old Casio keyboards, musique concrète elements like transistor radios and an old, dying refrigerator.
McCormick has an affection for spare, unstylized tones—the sort you may have been subjected to when having your ears checked as a kid. On opener "Oh, Sunshine," they're the foundation of an elementary melody, complemented only by a clicking beat and a droning guitar. On the eight minutes of "Blue Remains Grey"—a track created using a trial copy of an old piece of music software—those tones cause an intense musical claustrophobia. Imagine feeling both trapped and hypnotized at that same ear check-up and feeling pretty good about it.
There's a great deal of repetition on the record, which is bound to be a turn-off—even to ambient aficionados (though the pieces on Music for Airports were repetitious as well, and twice as long). Such redundancy is offset, though, by moments of pure joy: "For Homesick Memories," produced using an archaic Casio, is nothing but layered pitch plateaus and stock beats, but it ends up as beautiful as it is simple. And the aforementioned dying refrigerator makes a fine complement to McCormick's live drumming on the aptly titled "Refrigerator Dance Musics." It all ends with a long (designed to be looped indefinitely), melancholic, layered ambient work that may best encapsulate McCormick's liner-note advice: "Close your eyes and make your own movie."