Date: March 2010
Cat & Format: AB028 | CDr & DD
A collection of tracks exploring the raw extrusion of the human condition. Bringing together early works, Detached Metal Voice is characterised by an abstract narrative exploring the anxiety of disconnected elements striving to find connection in a world of digital communication. AT&T voice overs provide threads of psychological association, rhythmic neoclassical arrangements and noise electronic jazz improvisations provide the backdrop. Many experimental techniques are in place within the creative process of these tracks. Laboratory sine wave oscillators sweep through many of the tracks, tones are produced from simple homemade synthesisers. There is a homage to voice synthesis including excerpts taken from many of the early laboratory attempts to produce the human voice through the mode of synthesis, including work pioneered by Philip Rubin from the Haskins Laboratories, Tom Baer, and Paul Mermelstein. This synthesizer, known as ASY, was based on vocal tract models developed at Bell Laboratories in the 1960s and 1970s by Paul Mermelstein, Cecil Coker, and colleagues.
In tracks such as “Babyman” Autistici illustrates a fascination in hearing machines talking about emotive subjects, emulating emotive tonal changes and yet having no real connection to the subjective emotional experience. Alternatively tracks such as “Whispering Mongo Man” contain a 15 minute interview with John Lennon with all the words spoken by John deleted from the sound file.... Leaving only the intake
and exhalation of breath. With the content missing we are left with a sense of emotion contained within the spaces – the working of a man’s body.
The album encourages the listener to consider the complex question of how meaning, relationships and connections are constructed, communicated and perceived.
Shortly after releasing his second album, Complex Tone Test, David Newman, a British composer and sound designer better known under the moniker Autistici, is back at work with a new project. In Detached Metal Voice, from the first volume of the "Early Works", a body of noisy audio data, imperfections and interferences seem to be arranged in quite rarefied sequences, and may also include different recordings, with an abstract conceptual result. A somewhat eager narrative, full of experimental dynamics and rather diverse techniques, enacted with restraint and stylistic mastery. In the heterogeneity of the plots, there are even minimal jazzy grooves - in very hybrid forms - reflections of an "emotional" execution that the author doesn't eschew, fascinated by a plethora of influences and references. Dynamic elements overlap quite vividly and in a participative way, sometimes favouring more metallic and rhythmical scores, but always conveying a disturbing feeling of acoustic pollution.
Early Works, as the title suggests, is a collection of previously unreleased compositions recorded by David Newman within the last decade. This is a rasterized array of sounds, bleeps, clicks, and field recordings, ala musique concrète digitalis. The first volume, subtitled Detached Metal Voice, is a selection of early works “exploring the anxiety of disconnected elements striving to find connection in a world of digital communication.” These are experimental pieces with many exploratory techniques and tools, like sinewave oscillators, home-made tone generators, and works with ASY, a synthesizer based on vocal tract models developed at Bell Laboratories in the 60s. Be sure to check out Whispering Mongo Man, featuring an audio interview with John Lennon, composed entirely out of edited-out speech, leaving behind the space occupied by his breath. “The tracks encourage the listener to consider the complex question of how meaning, relationships and connections are constructed, communicated and perceived."
Autistici is the musical alter ego of David Newman, who also happens to run the Audiobulb record label. Newman is based in Sheffield, which is a long way away from London, New York, Los Angeles, or even Seattle—where I am writing from. But good music is never confined to geographic locations, as we all know. Even in this global internet world there is a tendency, however, to focus on music from your “local” area. I mention this because the music of Autistici (and that of the Audiobulb label in general) seems practically unknown in the United States. So I am doing my small part to spread the word.
As Newman himself describes the early material, it is from a time when he was exploring abstract sounds. Here is the “official” explanation of what the album is: “A collection of early works exploring the raw extrusion of the human condition. Bringing together abstract early works, Detached Metal Voice is characterized by a detached narrative, AT&T voiceovers provide threads of psychological association, rhythmic neoclassical arrangements and noise electronic jazz improvisations provide the backdrop.”
In all honesty—as those descriptions clearly show—this is music that is a little difficult to describe. To sum things up, though, the most obvious word people would use would probably be “dissonant.” That term is pretty loaded, though, and does not really do justice to the music at hand. Just be ready for something a little less melodic than the “usual” fare.
I remember the first time I heard John Coltrane really “go out there,” and wondering how (or why) anyone would listen to music as disconcerting as that was. Jeez—that was a live version of “My Favorite Things” recorded in 1963! Then I heard Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz, and even though all of my friends hated it, I began to understand the ideas behind it all.
As Newman himself says, his appreciation for music was a growth process. It took me a while for me to understand why John Cage’s 4’33” is so cool. Although many people think it is all about silence, the piece is actually all about the audience. The discomfort and rustling of papers for four minutes and thirty-three seconds is the “song.”
Yes it is conceptual, and yes one could call it pretentious. But it is pretty damned fascinating when you understand its real point. The real point of the early works of Autistici? Despite my earlier comments, the music is not really that dissonant at all. In fact, I quite enjoyed both albums.
I commend David Newman for what he is doing with the Audiobulb label, and it seems that the basic description (besides the early Autistici recordings) are what most of us would term “ambient” music. Tired of the “same old same old?” Then try something truly unique. Visit the Audiobulb label site and discover a whole new world of music.
Featuring rare early works and previously unreleased tracks, Detached Metal Voice showcases some of Autistici's most experimental material, exploring electroacoustic dissections of what might once have been classical music ('Morphine (Detail)'), cut-up voices and odd sound poetry ('Babyman'), plus digitally mutated jazz ('Colonic People'). One of the weirdest entries has to be 'Whispering Mongo Man', which takes audio from a John Lennon interview, only to erase all the words, leaving just the residual sounds left by his breathing. Intriguing stuff throughout, and all very different from the 12k release Volume Objects, for which Autistici is probably best known.
It’s barely been a few months since Autistici’s second album, Complex Tone Test, was released, yet here comes another collection of fine electronic music from David Newman, published on his excellent Audiobulb imprint. This time though, the album collates early recordings and brings a variety of experiments under one umbrella. No indication is given to when these tracks were recorded, but they are linked by a taste for retro-futuristic technologies, especially early voice synthesis experiments developed in the sixties and seventies in the US by the Bell Laboratories, an AT&T research site based in New Jersey, and old style electronic instrumentation.
The album draws influences from far beyond the electronica realm, occasionally hinting at classical or jazz forms, yet the result is predominantly electronic and textural in aspect, using a vast array of glitches and sonic interferences at the core of each piece. This defines the record right from the opening track, On A Beach Of Pure Data, which kicks off with a constant discharge of electricity before getting into a mechanical groove, and continues to cast a shadow throughout the record. Things become a tad warmer on Colonic People thanks to a particularly effective jazz groove, nicely finished by sporadic lashes of rounded double bass, but the track is drowned in toxic layers of noise and reverb towards the end, and things are back to harsh metallic rhythmic patterns, sometimes tainted with ominous strips of ambient soundscapes (It Contains A Diagnosis, Beneath) at others left bare and dry (Ligaments, BlaK BloK).
On Babyman, Newman puts very human and real interactions and emotions into the imaginary mouths of computers to create a rather disturbing dystopian tale. Do robots dream of electric sheep? Who knows, but in the hands of Newman, computers seem capable of some sentiments, synthetic or otherwise. On Whispering Mongo Man, he puts the voice through a very different process. Using a John Lennon interview as primary source, but removing all traces of words spoken by the interviewee, retaining only his breathing, Newman totally obliterates the message, leaving the listener to imagine the missing content. Only vague pointers are thrown in with other ghostly processed voices to occasionally try to make sense, rather unsuccessfully it has to be said, of the lost discussion. Elsewhere, fragments of conversations find their way through the corrosive beats of It Contains A Diagnosis, while heavy breathing, at times unprocessed, at others distorted, give the already inhospitable They Move On Me a dark twist.
On the whole, Detached Metal Voice is a much more menacing and tensed collection than Autistici’s recent album, and while it is a less consistent record, due possibly to its tracks having been presumably recorded over a period of time, it is still a very fine collection of assertive electronica by a confident musician. If this record is anything to go by, another trip down the Autistic vaults of unreleased music is definitely something to look forward to: roll on volume two!
David Newman embarks on a retrospective of his embryonic sound world, prompted perhaps by having completed a decade of exploratory endeavour, wanting to take stock of his developmental trajectory. Autistici's nascent voice emerges somewhat croakily on Detached Metal Voice - Early Works (Vol. 1), 'a collection of early works exploring the raw extrusion of the human condition'. In keeping with its theme, these are more discomfiting scenarios than in his more mature work, the tone set by a harsher retro-futurist sonology. We're in territory here the now tired epithet experimental reverts to a previous signification; difficult. The clinical psychologist (Newman's day-job) is more of an auteur here, musical vehicle affording a channel for re-processing elements of his experiential world through abstract sound. For the listener the album is likely to work differently from Newman's almost therapeutic deployment; in fact, with euphonic considerations decidedly on hold, the unsuspecting listener may be in for a rough audio-ride.
The eponymous voice (incl. Bell Laboratories' voice synthesis experiments of the 60s/70s) incides in dislocated fragments consorting with DIY synths and sinewave oscillators and a cornucopia of sonic detritus in diverse, faintly dystopian, settings. Specific pieces manifest a shifting skittish nature, like "Morphine (Detail)" with its electroacoustic classical bricolage, whirled up with combustion and synth-squeals, vocal cut-ups and sound poetry. "On A Beach Of Pure Data" opens the collection with the faintly malevolent flutter and whirr of malfunctioning shards cohering into flickering occasionally accidental rhythms, like a chance encounter of errant machinery acted out to a backdrop of ominous synthetics. "Colonic People" lets a dyspeptic jazzband slowly, queasily, be submerged under caustic infusions of noise and reverb, rnadom PA verbiage and digi-squalls. In contrast, "Whispering Mongo Man" reduces John Lennon to the breath between words in a miasma of pitched-down phonology and insectoid chatter. "It Contains a Diagnosis" sidles up like a mutant Autech-funk replicant, pulsing with a kind of metallic beat'n' bleep patter, versions of which present elsewhere. Throughout proceedings are tinted with a self-conscious tension in a sort of surreal elision of ambient soundscape and found sound stretched into ill whimsy and knowingly sinister mood music a la Chris Morris's Jam, as male, female, ovine and bovine babble are lightly drizzled or heavily mashed into 'an abstract narrative exploring the anxiety of disconnected elements striving to find connection in a world of digital communication.'
So far we known Autistici as a band with some fine microsound like music for labels such as 12K. Maybe its a bit early for a retrospective of early work for such a young band, but you never know where expectations come from for things like this. This is quite different from the music we already heard from them. Here Autistici work with the human voice which the feed through a synthesizer called ASY, as developed at Bell Laboratories in the 60s and 70s. The music is definitely different than the later work. More based, of course, within synthesizer sounds, through which the voices (not as in 'vocals') are fed, bouncing off into the world of ambient but also at times rhythmic like IDM or breakbeat/jazz like ('Clononic People'). Its actually quite a nice release, I think. Hardly like anything I heard from them before, but a pretty varied bunch of music, in which the voices are hardly to be recognized. In that respect its great to have these early works now, rather than in twenty-five years. Maybe Autistici should try and find some synthesis between these old music interest and their recent work. That would be interesting.
Audiobulb head honcho David Newman, always an embracer of the electronic edge, has delivered a particularly prickly pair in Detached Metal Voice. Newman has raided his past and gathered together all the fruit born of long dark nights closed off from the world with nothing but an old synth and a few circuit boards to keep him company and fired them into the universe in this volume of uncomfortable future-retro sound.
Those of you who thought Radiohead's 'Amnesiac' was a little out there need not trouble themselves with these eleven tracks. Newman has searched near and far in his attempt at creating “an abstract narrative exploring the anxiety of disconnected elements striving to find connection in a world of digital communication.” The album really is as bonkers as that sounds with the application of synths, oscillators, cuttings of distorted speech and, as much as anything else, a brutal use of space and silence.
'Colonic People' provides the only real moment of traditional instrumentation with an acoustic bass and some shuffled drums, the rest of the record is given over to pure experimentation, like a freeform jazz interpretation played out inside the brain of a server. In fact, opener 'On a Beach Of Pure Data' comes across like an eavesdropped conversation between sentient computers as flashes of electricity crackle out of from underneath the backdrop of doomy synthetic noise. We aren't dealing with Noise as a genre here though as these songs are far more structured, verging on a classical stance.
Elsewhere, more weird shit continues to happen with persons unknown clearly having rather a good time on both 'They Move On Me' and 'Beneath' (don't listen to this in the car with your Gran!) while 'Whispering Mango Man' uses a John Lennon interview minus the John Lennon. Apparently Newman has left only the dead legend's breathing in the mix of slowed down interviewer speech and robot insect chatter. An avant-garde ruse Yoko couldn't fail but to admire.
Detached Metal Voice will leave many scratching their heads - even those already aware of his recently released second album "Complex Tone Test". Those who like to stretch their own taste limits and journey past the safety net in search of warped new horizons should give Autistici a go, but be warned, easy this ain't.
The first volume of Autistici's Detached Metal Voice – Early Works presents forty-eight minutes of explorative experimentalism by Audiobulb main man David Newman. The collection is intended to be heard as “an abstract narrative exploring the anxiety of disconnected elements striving to find connection in a world digital communication.” On that count, it certainly succeeds: in most of the eleven tracks, fractured voices add dislocated narrative fragments to ice-cold, machine-driven settings assembled using homemade synthesizers and sinewave oscillators. Voice synthesis transmogrifies the human voice at times, and seldom is it heard in its natural form.
“On A Beach Of Pure Data” begins the recording with the click and snarl of electronic shards and flickering patterns, after which “Morphine (Detail)” combines the whirr of engine combustion noise with synthesizer squeals. Coming after such untraditional settings, “Colonic People” startles with its jazz rhythm section of acoustic bass and brushed drums, though it too serves as a springboard for a more experimental treatment when public voice announcements and mini-typhoons of noise threaten to supplant the bass and drum parts. A rhythm dimension also surfaces when “It Contains a Diagnosis” occasionally flirts with a kind of mutant robo-funk, but Detached Metal Voice – Early Works is ultimately anything but a rhythm-centered outing .
In “Babyman,” the babble of male and female speakers appears alongside cow-like moos and other mangled voice treatments, and “Whispering Mongo Man” reduces a fifteen-minute John Lennon interview to nothing more than the interstitial spaces between the spoken words—not that anyone would know by listening to the experimental setting itself, which sounds very much like the other tracks on the recording. Slightly more provocative are “They Move On Me” and “Beneath,” both of which appear to include ecstatic sounds of lovemaking filtered through electronic devices that only partially camouflage the evidence of the originating material. Be forewarned: the still-audible orgasmic moans may make you feel more like a voyeur than you'd prefer. Put simply, the recording captures the sound of Newman in his home laboratory trying out techniques and exploring ideas—process as important as result. Just don't expect to be emotionally moved by the material; being abstract by nature, the project's appeal falls more within the cerebral sphere.