|Rashad Becker — Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I (2013)|
Rashad Becker — Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I
Location: Berlin, Germany
Album release: September 2013
Record Label: PAN 34
01 Dances 4:21
02 Dances II 4:27
03 Dances III 4:12
04 Dances IV 4:14
05 Themes I 3:49
06 Themes II 4:06
07 Themes III 4:13
08 Themes IV 4:25
→ Artwork — Bill Kouligas
→ Pressed on 140g vinyl, packaged in a pro-press color jacket and a silkscreened pvc sleeve.
→ There are voices in there.
→ Spun microphones / clouds of insects / voices wrenched from shamanic throats /cabaret drum rolls / drowned brass sections. Mosquito trombones / cooing pigeon bubbling / depth charge timpanis buried.
→ These sounds do not refer to these sounds.
→ These sounds are moving from the front of my ears to the back of my head. From proximal intimacy to semi-described non-places. These sounds are simultaneously slow and fast — pointillist meets textural. These sounds are rough and smooth — rounded electronic tones cutting through swirls of static clouds. The repetitions here are gentle, sedately paced, but insistent — they have momentum. These circuits are autonomous, self regulating and tightly composed. These chants, dances, themes, that never outstay their welcome, are perfectly formed microworlds.
→ Rashad Becker’s debut album is mysterious and straightforward.
→ It is upfront in wanting to take a non-referential position to sound sources, while concurrently pointing to traditions outside western harmonic structures. As such, it literally synthesises outside influences and internal ‘from first principals’ sound objects. → It does point unavoidably to say, musique concrète or at a pinch David Tudor, but its mastery of its own formal challenges – microworlds, development of non-referring themes, perfectly balanced frequency content — is absolute.
→ Using words to describe something that wants to fold in on itself, to almost disappear, seems close to futile, so we can only point to what these sounds point us towards. So:
→ The second side, Themes, seems immediately more tonal, though with the edges of these tones bleeding into bell-like buzzes of distortion, this still presents a complex field to unpick. What is compelling here is how the accumulated texture retains clarity as the layers progress. There is a depth of tone and frequency separation that feels warm. And that is one of the many strengths of both sides — while there are touches of bass pressure or almost acidic squelches that give it an oblique nod to techno or dub — the warmth of all the sounds here give it an ‘inside out’ feel.
→ Traditional Music of Notional Species is meditative and humorous — its feedback matrices spiralling inwards rather than outwards; its pings, sweeps and slides mean it is never dry or academic. It ends, appropriately, with what could almost be the sound of a tape player spluttering in its demise.
→ This is a thoughtful, playful record that gently demands your attention, and which rewards close listening with riches. Highly recommended!
By Marc Masters; September 20, 2013; Score: 7.4
→ Rashad Becker makes a living with his ears. As engineer at Berlin’s Dubplates & Mastering, he’s mastered and cut a massive amount of dance, electronic, and experimental albums (his credits include at least 1200 records). He’s built a reputation for creating great-sounding vinyl, so it’s no shock that the first record of his own music sounds great, too. Traditional Music of Notational Species, Vol. 1 is thoroughly clear and precise. Everything on it is boldly legible, and though there are tons of sounds intersecting and overlapping, nothing is blurry. It’s as if Becker’s mastering his own brain and transferring what he hears in his head with little if any generational loss. It’s all pretty unpredictable, sure, but he’s always in control of his busy mix.
→ What is surprising about Traditional Music is how singular it sounds. Becker has listened to so much music that it should be impossible for him not to copy some of it. → And in fact there are moments that recall other artists (if you need a frame of reference, think Black Dice without the beats, or Fennesz with the serene poignancy replaced by an prankster-ish sense of play). But while you may have heard some of Becker’s sounds before, the way he glues, melts, cuts, layers, and stretches them is unique. So is the effect of all that activity– I rarely think of other music when I’m listening Traditional Music, since the connections and juxtapositions Becker makes between the sounds themselves are more than enough to occupy my attention.
→ Much of that attention-grab comes from how concrete Traditional Music sounds, a rarity for work this abstract. There are few sounds here that you’d automatically associate with particular notes, keys, or instruments. But every moment feels real in a tangible, three-dimensional way. Often music like Becker’s can seem dislocated from the material world, cut off from any physical events that might have created the sounds. But Becker’s mix lives and breathes in pointed, often hilarious detail. His sounds actually sound like things, be it growling animals, buzzing flies, distant echoes, whirring sirens, or blipping radars.
→ It’s up to you to choose which associations work, which makes Traditional Music a kind of sonic mood ring. Think of one track as underwater rumblings and suddenly you can hear bubbles popping, waves rolling, and depth-charges rippling; think of another as a conversation and soon every sound takes on the inflections and innuendoes of human speech. Smartly, Becker refrains from suggesting interpretations, titling half of his tracks “Dances I-IV” and the other half “Themes I-IV”. He seems so thrilled with all the possibilities in sound creation that he’s happy to let you divine the meaning in his madness. The only thing he seems to want you to do is have fun figuring it all out.
→ Given Becker’s background as an engineer, it’s tempting to see Traditional Music as a kind of sound-effect library or technical demonstration disc, and maybe it is. But if so, it’s similar to Raymond Scott’s early electronic experiments, which were lab exercises that produced engaging music. Scott tinkered with technology and pushed at the boundaries of the medium, but he was out to do more than wow laymen with his toys. His musical sensibility and thrill of discovery birthed pieces that were compelling and often even moving, regardless of how they were created. The same goes for Becker’s music. You can start by gawking at his surprising, hilarious, exhilarating sounds, but you’ll likely find many more reasons to return to Traditional Music of Notational Species, Vol 1. (http://pitchfork.com/)
Ian Maleney / Thu, 05 September 2013 / Score: 4
→ A few years ago, Robert Henke asked Rashad Becker about the mastering process that's made him (and Dubplates & Mastering) so well-known and respected. In that interview, Becker talked about "mapping the sound to my body, and to my ears" and dealing with the sound in terms of how it "addresses my body." This focus on the physical presence of sound is a defining facet of Becker's debut album, Traditional Music Of Notional Species Vol. I. With practically no reliance on traditional cornerstones, such as rhythm, harmony or melody, all that's left to do is engage with the sound on the terms set by its own immediate impact.
→ On the album's opening side, it feels like we're in jazz country, albeit an unexplored part of the map. Rabih Beaini's Albidaya LP from earlier this year tread upon similar ground, but where Beaini let everything hang out in a rush of improvisation, Becker strips things back to carefully composed floods of colour. His lead tones often sound akin to Albert Ayler's saxophone, a buzzing shard of brass piercing the air. This is especially true on "Chants II," a chaotic but controlled ball of energy fighting against itself for the entirety of its short life.
→ The latter half of the record is more restrained and somewhat melancholy. From dense clouds of noise to near-ambient passages, there remains a consistent Becker timbre, a sequence of personal dream logic. Each sound is clear, full-bodied and perfectly placed within the mix. There is no waste. This is also true of the album in its entirety, which flies through eight tracks in just over half an hour. Each one is long enough to have a developed narrative, but short enough to blend with the whole.
→ It's interesting that this album comes at a time when PAN's output has been more focused on outsider club sounds— following releases from Black Sites, Lee Gamble, Heatsick and NHK'Koyxen among others, Becker's LP serves as a timely reminder of the label's experimental roots. Traditional Music Of Notional Species Vol. 1 is designed to dominate your attention; full of heart, incredibly detailed and impossible to pin down. → It's almost hard to believe this is his first album.
|Rashad Becker — Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I (2013)|