OK, I confess: I have no idea how to make that sped-up creaky-door sound you hear on every record made by somebody who?s heard Autechre. Sometimes it?s phased, other times it?s not, but it?s everywhere and I don?t know where it comes from. Is it digital, analog, live, sampled? I?ve always assumed digital/sampled, but this album makes me question that. See, the creaky-door sound is here, as are many other trappings of (sorry) IDM, and yet Caleb Mueller makes a big, big deal in the 40,000,000-word essay in the liner notes to this, his second record under the moniker Decomposure, about using only analog sounds here, no synths. Mueller slags ?the digital sound? as opposed to ?the real world,? and he claims that although many of the burbling blips and bumps backing up his songs here sound
like computer noises, they?re actually just computer-sequenced recordings of ?natural? sounds ? a book hitting a chair, a glass bottle being struck, etc. It?s a curious attitude, and the way I listen to this album is colored by my puzzlement at it. I don?t mean to be difficult, but how is using a computer to sequence sounds different from using a computer to create them? Why is one nobler than the other?
With that question pending, I will note that I?m pretty impressed by the range of rhythmic sounds Mueller conjures from disparate sources here. A bit less enchanting are by the fairly standard alt-pop, post-Bob-Mould melodies he lays on them (?Whose Side Are You On,? ?Disconnect?). I give him credit for seeking a more striking sonic home for heart-on-sleeve laments like ?Center of the World? than many of his peers would think to. More songwriters should do that, and should absorb abstract music as a concept, as Mueller does. But I?d honestly enjoy it as much or more if I didn?t have his aesthetic hangups on my mind all the time. It emphasizes the insularity of the proceedings here, when a less didactic posture could have encouraged breadth and worldliness. Mueller writes (again, in the liner note essay) that he perceives dull isolation as a theme of the album, so maybe some of what I?m picking up here is intentional.
I used to think that indie rockers, jazz musicians, and artists of all stripes should have manifestos. Didn?t Wallace Stevens have ?The Necessary Angel?? But now I think: nah, let?s just have a song. The ones Mueller provides here are pretty good, and he is skilled at combining angular electronic atmospherics with true-blue melodies. Also he gets bonus points for donating any and all proceeds he gets from the sale of the album to Amnesty International, so don?t hold back on buying the thing if you?re looking for solid, well-intentioned, and forward-thinking music. 6/10 -- Sal Addays (1 July, 2005)