More Impossible Futures is Robin’s second solo recording, the first being the full length LP/Cassette A Handful of Automation released on Editions Mego in 2010. More Impossible Futures 7″ builds upon this previous release with two shimmering audio diamonds perfectly suited to the 7″ format. Two sharp succinct statements tackling each side of the electronic coin. More Impossible Futures is a digital work that teases a jittering melody out of a flickering environment whilst “Drift Compression” takes the listener into a decidedly delicious audio abyss. An otherworldly analogue work made on a EMS VCS 3 (the ‘Doctor Who’ machine). Two Sides. Two worlds. One Man
I was overjoyed to receive this in the mail for review, as it’s extremely limited (300 on vinyl, 200 on tape including 2 bonus tracks) and I’m kinda not buying records because I’m saving up to buy a car, so I was afraid I was going to miss out on this one. But it’s in my hands now, and it’s as awesome as I was expecting.
This is Robin Fox’s first solo audio-only release, after a DVD and collaborations with Anthony Pateras and Clayton Thomas. He creates art using lasers, and this album is the sound of technology combusting on itself. Shards of circuits fly past you at hundreds of miles per hour in every direction, constantly changing path and velocity in a neon green blur. A few traces of lost shortwave broadcast flicker momentarily before being consumed. A few drone tracks, such as “Vampira,” offer moments of concentrated dread, in which the machines freeze in terror, tensely anticipating their next programmed fit.
As far as possible comparisons, sure, Tetsu Inoue and Yasunao Tone come to mind, and the title track sounds like Aphex Twin’s Bucephalus Bouncing Ball (minus the melody) gone haywire. But this album truly stands out in the way it portrays several different ways of digital destruction. Not to mention it’s a blast to listen to. For anyone who’s a huge Mego fan, rest assured this one’s entirely worth tracking down.
18 August 2010
Robin Fox & Anthony Pateras
Antipodean maestros of realtime electroacoustics, Antony Pateras and Robin Fox follow-up their 2006 Editions Mego debut, Flux Compendium with an erratic album of gleeful computer noise and manipulated recordings. You may recall Pateras’ 2007 solo album Chasms on Sirr for its deft and discerning application of prepared piano and subtly morphed acoustic timbres, but this is a different prospect altogether, combining splattering, Hecker-like high-end synthesis (‘Whipped Silk’) with spacious dissections of concrete sound (as on the virtuosic, slapstick cut’n’paste of ‘You’re All Answers’). Sophisticated and avant-garde as the album tends to be, there’s no short supply of fun to be had; for all its pristine, technical execution, a track like ‘Apollonian Gasket’ exudes joy and kinetic energy, while ‘Lung Butter Blues’ adds an Henri Chopin-style vocal component, loaded with spluttered chaos and a punk-ish sense of confrontation. Brilliant.
Robin Fox and Clayton Thomas
Australian duo Robin Fox and Clayton Thomas have created something of an oddity with their debut collaborative release ‘Substation’. Fox is an expert in Max/MSP programming (it’s a piece of music software for those of you living in the real world) wheras Thomas is an expert on the double bass and a luminary of the Aussie improv scene. An interesting pairing then and one which lives up to expectations; the first piece ‘Direct Couriers’ lulls you into a false sense of security with haunting chimes and double bass tones, but as the second track ‘Shuffle’ awakens you quickly realise that ‘Substation’ is not going to be an easy piece of listening. Harsh processed squeaks and squeals burst from Thomas’s double bass and Fox’s laptop to create an all-encompassing headphone listening onslaught. By the time it finishes, you’ll feel quite exhausted, luckily the album’s centrepiece – the almost 30 minute ‘Dust on the Diodes’ is a more slow burning work, gradually building deep drones and clanking sounds into a sea of processed plucks. ‘Substation’ is by no means an album for a quiet night in – it’s an experience, something which requires all your senses to be fully honed to allow yourself room to experience the music. One of Room40’s most peculiar releases, but also one of it’s most rewarding – recommended.
Digital culture is obsessed with synaesthesia, especially sound/image convergence. From club ‘visuals’ to automatic ‘visualiser’ plugins for mp3 applications, there’s an ideal of sensory fusion at work which draws on cyber/psychedelic rave culture, and utopian new media discourse.
Ideals aside, digital media forms do create new potential for varieties of ‘machine’ synaesthesia–automatic mappings between sound and image. Visualiser plugins offer specific and more-or-less arbitrary mappings of image to sound. While they can’t (promise to) induce a synaesthetic experience, they do offer a machine synaesthesia that might challenge, reorder, or at least reflect on, our own audiovisual perception. Yet most synaesthesia machines are little more than bolted-on nozzles that turn all your favourite tunes into generic visual sludge.
By contrast Robin Fox’s Backscatter disc presents a highly specific and refined synaesthesia machine. He has assembled a simple audiovisual synthesizer using simple digitally synthesised audio and an old analog oscilloscope. The oscilloscope is in ‘polar’ mode, so instead of scanning left to right, displaying the conventional ‘trace’ of the waveform, the trace orbits the screen. Waveforms create woven circles, loops, twisting spirals, filigreed knots.
Response is instantaneous, so the screen jumps and twitches in sync with Fox’s audio signature skitters and blips. The sound-vision mapping is supple, the images beautiful and sometimes surprising. The pieces feel quite controlled, even composed, the way they seem to literally reveal new twists and tricks. Overall, the results are staggering.
Robin Fox & Anthony Pateras
Exquisitely packaged (the cover work by Sarah Pirrie is outstanding), intriguingly diverse, this succeeds as a series of excursions into a strange, painful territory we can touch with our fingers but can’t see with our eyes. This is nowhere more true than the closing track ‘Recombinant’, which spins a web of whining feedback around gentle chimes, creating a mournful, faintly sinister atmosphere which reverberates between the listener’s ears. Similarly ‘Cranking The Dwarf’, one of the noisier track on the album, merrily twangs on your nerve endings, with its chatter and gibber enveloped by blisters of grating distortion. ‘Circuits & Glass’ is another standout, with bursts of full-on electronic noise punctuated by speaker feedback and abrasive clatters and tinkles. There’s a lot of this sort of stuff about, and in the main it sounds like a couple of blokes playing about with their kit, making it up as they go along. That may be the case with Pateras and Fox, neither of whom I have previously heard of, but if they can produce a record of this quality by so doing then good luck to them. ‘Circuits & Glass’ could be Merzbow at his best, and I can think of no higher compliment than that.
Fluxeuropa – 3 June 2003
Robin Fox & Anthony Pateras
First and maybe obvious point. This magnificent disc has to be listened to at full volume on a proper hi-fi, not headphones or incar stereo. That way the sonic terrorism of the opening track comes at you full force, and the subtler effects of subsequent tracks aren’t lost in environmental sound. Pateras and Fox are a terrifying soundart double-act from Melbourne’s outer suburbs – Pateras produces the material ..boards or as here exclusively, vocalising, and Fox processes the result in real-time on laptop. I was misled to some extent by the CD blurb: “Equal parts postwar beard and modern patchnocrat…two of Melbourne’s hairiest sons nosedive and writhe in their unique take of sonic totalism, rising out of the muck with their kaleidoscopic best.” You might be too if you don’t dig beneath the zany humour that’s such an attractive part of their act. Don’t take it without argument that sounds of slurping reflect the pair’s eating habits, or that the oral noises should have invoked a Parental Advisory sticker.
Tracks are quite short, each with a distinct character, multi-dynamic and in constant flux. The comparatively brief opening barrage of “Apocalypse Now And Then” is a wacky, scratch ‘n’ sniff manipulation of electroacoustic clichés and sci-fi effects, bizarrely juxtaposed with a compendium of bodily functions – “punk concrète” as its authors call it. The way Pateras licks around the mic on “Aphasia” and “Olfactophobia” is quietly disgusting, while “$2.50” is a relief from orality in its focus on bell and coin sounds. The compressed and fractured argument of “Threat In Three Parts” leaves this listener in stitches, while “Perilymph” is untypical in its 13-minute length, and haunting, glitch-inflected evocation of the sine-wave/sci-fi school of electroacoustic composition. To process Pateras’s signal, Fox employs a variety of techniques, mostly involving live sampling and manipulation of those samples, he explains – moving between real-time musique concrète and a kind of granular synthesis which inserts pre-designed ideas or licks built up from grains of sound. Make no mistake, Pateras and Fox are serious and major artists who happen, on occasion, to be very funny. Flux Compendium is a scream and also very beautiful, the finest showcase to date of their compositional flair and wit.