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February 6th, 2002 John Graham (editor) | Sonic Reducer
 

IDM Mania!

So-called "intelligent dance music": Is it really that smart? Does anyone actually dance to it? And is it even music at all? These questions--and more--answered in this incisive guide to a week's worth of bizarre electronic g

     
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Diagram of Suburban Chaos
Status Negatives
(Imputor?)

Suddenly, a brilliant sunset. The clouds of afternoon have torn themselves apart, and an apocalyptic yellow glow suffuses the sky like a radioactive inferno. Walls gleam. The computer screen fuses with the light. And on the speakers: Diagram of Suburban Chaos, streaking the air around the stereo with zigzagging ebony vectors of electronic drones and stuttering percussive buzzes. The synchronicity of sight and sound is frightening. As the remaining clouds crawl across the sky like bioluminescent centipedes, so the serpentine keyboards slide alongside rhythms that patter like tiny feet creeping across your skin. Then the night closes in. The light winds down in a shiny death spiral, and the vision is gone. But the sound remains, 68 strange, stirring, whirring minutes of it, until its ephemeral synthetic caress finally evaporates, too. And you have to wonder: Was it all a dream? Or did Diagram of Suburban Chaos do that on purpose? John Graham

Diagram of Suburban Chaos plays Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-9949. 9:30 pm. $6. 21+.

 

snap judgments

Otto Von Schirach
Escalo Frio
(Schematic)

Mythological, Miami-based, German-Cuban musical alchemist Otto Von Schirach probably considers himself a master of synthesis. Throughout the 21 tracks of Escalo Frio, his recently released second album, Von Schirach slashes open the structural beats of Autechre and pours in the jagged synth blips and farts of Aphex Twin. He then further dissects the mixture with rabid cut-up angularity befitting the Residents. Rarely do Von Schirach's sounds and beats repeat in a set rhythm. Sample threads twist into new samples nearly as quickly as they begin. His deranged sounds spew forth almost randomly, as if at war with the metronome. The end result seems to defy the rhythmic order of standard techno and instead sounds closer to an audio version of the surrealist game, Exquisite Corpse, in which participants randomly add sections onto parts of a drawing they haven't yet seen. While his channel-surfing approach to rhythm and melody often seems spurious and vague, Von Schirach's unhinged approach to IDM is often more compelling than the narcotic repetition of most armchair dance music. It may be a frustrating listen, but Otto Von Schirach certainly knows how to grab our attention. Dave Clifford

Otto Von Schirach plays Monday at the Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-9949. 9:30 pm. $7. 21+.

Phoenecia
OddJob Discrimination EP
(Schematic)

Phoenicia--otherwise known as Romulo Del Castillo and Joshua Kay, the guys behind Miami's hip IDM label Schematic Records--has tapped friends and labelmates to remix "Odd Job," a cut from its Brownout LP that sounds something like a reworking/ripoff of "Me and My Rhythm Box" from the Liquid Sky soundtrack. At least, I think this is six remixes of the same song--they bear little resemblance to each other. In quick and dirty fashion: Matmos, Prefuse 73 and Otto Van Schirach work their funky glitch-popping magic, while Dino Felipe and Jeswa (a.k.a. Josh Kay) contribute somewhat more ethereal renderings. Detroit retro-techno duo Adult contributes a straight-up synth-pop number that is cute at first, but goes on too long. The annoyance factor of the Adult cut aside, these bits are generally pretty entertaining. The disc as a whole, however, isn't really earth-shattering...unless you're a Schematic completist (or something deranged like that). Ben Munat

Phoenecia plays Monday at the Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-9949. 9:30 pm. $7. 21+.

Richard Devine
Aleamapper
(Schematic)

Devine: The name is homonymically perfect. It seems as if this techno deity appeared out of nowhere like some kind of digital messiah--or perhaps avenging angel--leading the world out of darkness, into IDM heaven and back again. In a genre full of contrived laptop hackery and glitch-happy copycats, Devine is transcendent. His ghost-in-the-machine, silicon-fried nightmare sounds whistle, scream and whoosh like spirits haunting the vacuum of space. Static crackles, a lost alien transmission. Novas explode. A pulse drums in the back of your brain, like a vestigial memory left behind by a forgotten race. And controlling all these strange machinations are the hands of Richard Devine, master of the strange and invisible corners of the universe. He may not even be human. His music certainly isn't. But that's the source of its fearsome power. John Graham

 
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