The ultra-prolific Montreal composer Kristian returns with the tenth and final entry in his series of experimental releases he recorded in the Mermaid Room (these tracks date from 1999-2001). Having recently decided that future endeavors will concentrate on his film compositions, this is allegedly Kristian?s final electronic release in the IDM (Intelligent Digital Music) genre he helped define, and I was rather disappointed he didn?t go out on a higher note. Self-described as a collection of ?micro samples? or MIDI files consisting of ?short percussive sounds, blips, bleeps, noise bursts and transistor squirts??), this will certainly not satisfy everyone?s tastes. Over a flowing, yet melodious drone, these 16 sonic experiments serve as the dictionary definition of ?math rock,? and their creation is meticulously detailed in Kristian?s liner notes.
While it doesn?t require an engineering degree to understand the music, it certainly wouldn?t hurt and therein lies my philosophical problem with the release, which broaches the very volatile subject of ?what is music? or, more specifically, what is the purpose of music. Various schools of thought offer valid arguments in favor of ?entertainment,? ?relaxation,? ?excitement,? and ?education? (among many others). While electronic music is a popular method of achieving all four goals, when not done effectively it notoriously can bore its listeners to tears and that is often the case here. From the repetitive, loopy techno blips of ?Collie Chargette? to the funky stutterstep of ?Chorithm? to the incessant brain freeze rhythm of ?Owls That Sang To Me,? Kristian?s experimental glitches and electronic tone poems may only find limited acceptance outside his cadre of devoted followers and fans.
On the other hand, the sonically adventurous will appreciate Kristian?s anticeptically cold, unemotional and clinical beats and, to borrow a title from Stereolab, ?transient random noisebursts? that rival the recent techno krautrock of Kraftwerk?s horrible comeback flop ?Tour de France Soundtracks? (Astralwerks, 2003). Tracks such as the hiccuping robotics of ?Submurmuring? or the perky ?Play It By Ear and Nose and Throat,? which is as entertaining as its punny title suggests will hold up to repeat listens, as will the album?s highlight, ?Norways,? which appropriates the 80?s electro dance beats of an OMD, Depeche Mode or Ultravox to good effect. Alternately, I thought the blatant ripoff of Pete Townshend?s synth intro to ?Won?t Get Fooled Again? on ?Helium Mixer Socialite? was a bit lazy and disappointing.
Ultimately, the release is as frustrating as it is challenging, and listeners like me who refuse to acknowledge glitch music as anything other than what it really is ? a manufacturing defect (in the old vinyl days, if I bought a record that skipped, I?d return it for a refund) may want to give it a pass and keep an eye out for Kristian?s ensuing soundtrack work. 5/10 -- Jeff Penczak (31 October, 2005)