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Boards of Canada – Geogaddi (2002)

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Although not a follower of Boards of Canada, I’m a devoted Geogaddi fan. If said followers are to be believed, Geogaddi is the peak of BoC’s hazy, nostalgic, slightly creepy take on 2000s IDM. This is what happens when you put a bunch of detuned analog synthesizers in a darkened room, or at least one possible result. Beyond their obvious affectations, Boards of Canada tends towards a consonant, accessible sound built on repeated melodies, sampled speech, and ambient noise. Confield this ain’t, but given the band’s apparent intent, this is probably to their advantage.

Geogaddi isn’t a concept album, but it does seem to have some intentional religion and occult themes that flavor the experience. The most obvious sign of this is the continued references to Branch Davidians and especially David Koresh of Waco standoff fame. Some of these songs take on more sinister undertones if you keep that in mind, but to be fair, that’s not the only mood on display here. Despite the aesthetic adornments, Geogaddi uses its sonar palette to great effect and achieves a very diverse sound in the process. This ability to make lots of ideas out of a relatively small amount of sounds is a plus in its favor.

The album’s songwriting, on the other hand, is more unified (and if you’ve been reading Invisible Blog recently, you might recognize this as part of my “e pluribus unum” bender). These tracks are driven primarily by small phrases repeated again and again, with subtle and gradual changes over time to distract you from the essential nature of what you’re listening to. This, amongst other things, inspires  my use of the “ambient” label; my experiences with electronic music have long since habituated me to the style and I can safely say that BoC intends no exception here. A few methods particularly stand out to me, though. The most prominent is how Geogaddi plays with rhythm and time signatures; more than just an album of loops, this is an album of odd (but not strange) loops. It should go without saying that by keeping your elements slightly out of sync, you can create a great deal of aesthetic variety out of otherwise limited content. Brian Eno did something similar on Music for Airports. BoC also shifts up their song structures on occasion, even accounting for the constant interludes. This sometimes results in a near-conventional pop song like “1969”, though whether that got the radio executive husks’ attention is a legend best researched by someone else.

Ultimately, Geogaddi is great at what it does, has a few particularly unique tricks up its sleeve, and hits some of my aesthetic/conceptual interests in the process as well. You can imagine how it might end up devouring my soul.

Highlights: “Music is Math”, “Sunshine Recorder”, “Alpha and Omega”, “You Could Feel The Sky”

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Igorrr – Savage Sinusoid (2017)

folder.jpgLongtime readers here at Invisible Blog may be familiar with my affinity for Whourkr and their breakneck electronic/metal fusion work. Gautier Serre seems to favor this permutation on those ideas nowadays, though. Like most Igorrr albums, Savage Sinusoid throws in a healthy portion of snooty French cafe music and whatever else comes to the musician’s mind, awing simpletons and hardening the arteries of reactionaries. Add to that a pair of histrionic vocalists, and you’ve got a robust formula for a recording that (at least initially) sounds like it has none. Talk about the Great Deceiver! My initial expectation for Savage Sinusoid was that it would sound at least somewhat like Serre’s earlier… …whourks, at least in the sense that it would draw on extreme metal technique to some extent. That turned out to be partially correct.

The album certainly puts its most metallic foot forwards with its opener – “Viande” focuses almost entirely on the processed guitars and high pitched screams that the Serreverse likes using to build metal music, but serves as more of an extended intro than a full fledged song. The sound collage kicks into full gear immediately afterwards, neatly summarizing Igorrr’s strengths and weaknesses. On one hand, the metaltronica is very much on point when present – even when you account for my personal preferences, mixing the two to create a chaotic and violent aesthetic seems to be a band specialty. The problem with Savage Sinusoid is that it also throws in (for all practical purposes) the entire history of Western art music for shits and giggles. These songs’ constant insistence on having something new for the listener robs even the more effective instances of their chances to develop. This is a pretty common problem with this approach, and it’s probably not going to stop anyone from trying, but I must continue to emphasize how common of a trap it is so that future generations may find a solution.

Savage Sinusoid does, however, have one particularly superlative element, in the performances of its dueling vocalists. Perhaps that should be two elements. Either way, they are a strong point, and apparently long term collaborators of Gautier Serre. His previous works have had skilled vocalists before (expect my reference to Whourkr’s debut full length Concrete to glow incandescent blue once I find the time to write about it), but having two who can pull off this many styles is at least technically impressive. They’re also very charismatic performances who do everything in their power to entertain us; I actually got to see the band live, and amongst other things, they spent much of their set dancing across the stage like Pornographer Cain. Anecdotes aside, these strong performances justify deeper listening to songs here that would otherwise come off as ridiculous and nonsensical.

So maybe the album does come off as goofy at times – I deserve to have some fun in my life, right?

Highlights: “Houmous”, “Opus Brain”, “Cheval”, “Apopathodiaphulatophobia”

Orbital – Snivilisation (1994)

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Where do I even begin with this one? Orbital is one of those bands that insists on having a unique identity on each of their albums. If I understand this one’s context correctly, Snivilisation is the weird album – the one you’d insert into your brand new multimedia PC with Windows 3.1 to show off your cool new CD player when you weren’t playing Myst or Spaceship Warlock. It’s also more subdued and contemplative on average than the last one. So we’ve got a somewhat ambient, but also occasionally very silly recording, with a random punk rock song dividing it into halves that aren’t all that different from one another. There’s not much in the way of metaphors I can apply here, so the best approach is to try and figure out what makes Snivilisation snivel.

As a general rule, Orbital isn’t especially dense or overwhelming, but this is one of their sparser albums, more focused on maximizing the payout from its constituent parts than introducing new ones into songs. Samples here are especially relevant; if you ask me, Snivilisation has an optimistic, technophiliac sheen to it that’s admittedly most prominent during its sillier tracks. Case in point – “Philosophy by Numbers” is essentially a commercial for some unknown continuing education service on top of a dissonant drone, but it fights for space in its mix with screeching trumpets and increasingly complex tonal percussion before fading out. Why not find it to find out more? Orbital’s snark is more restrained in other tracks, but it’s certainly a different emphasis than, for instance, the deep and rich melodic development of In Sides.

For all of this, Snivilisation still has the Orbital trademarks and relies heavily on them. Its songs are still based in the ambient/techno approach that made the band famous. One thing that particularly pops out (even in a discography that generally emphasizes it) is the emphasis on vocals. The samples are an obvious case, but outside of a plethora of EPs I’ve not listened to, this appears to be their first recording with apparently non-sampled and obviously word-flavored vocals (“Sad But True”). I can’t actually make them out, and I’d guess they’re more for effect than anything. In this case, I’d say it’s more useful as an example of how to incorporate human singing into this sort of electronic music without obviously switching to a more conventional pop approach.

There’s still some analysis I need to do to really get everything Orbital’s attempting here, but I’m certain that Snivilisation is one of the stranger and more whimsical EDM recordings of its era. If you need your EDM to be strange and whimsical, you’ve come to the right place.

Highlights: “Forever”, “Sad But True”, “Kein Trink Wasser”, “Attached”

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 1: Stage VI

Flash Fiction Month is back! The rules are the same as last time; each of this month’s posts will be a self-contained story, most likely of about the usual 400-500 word length. I make no guarantees of subject, style, or anything else. You can read last year’s installments here.


Six years ago, I found a discolored patch of skin on my leg and went to see the doctor. Turned out that I had a malignant melanoma that I’d luckily caught very early on. We excised it, I did my share of chemotherapy, I recovered, and then I went on with my life, seemingly unharmed but for the need to schedule extra maintenance checkups with my doctor to make sure it didn’t come back.

Six months ago, I got a strange envelope in the mail with no return address. It contained a musty, foul-smelling piece of paper stained with brown ink that vaguely resembled words, but was otherwise completely unintelligible. At the time, I thought it was a prank gone wrong, so I tossed the letter out in the garbage. It slipped my mind soon after – I had a lot of important projects going at work that I didn’t want to leave hanging.

Six weeks ago, however, I received a much more disturbing letter. A pair of lawyers (Richard and Simon Dowling, who had colonized late night TV with their advertisements and burnt their phone number into my mind) sent me a letter informing me that one of their clients had demanded restitution from me for “unlawful separation”, and since I had refused to provide it, I was now required to appear at my local courthouse.

“This has to be some sort of joke, right?” I asked them in a call I placed soon after. Read more…

Aphex Twin – Richard D. James Album (1996)

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You know, the last time we talked about Aphex Twin, I got awfully fixated on Slayer, and it kind of spiraled out of control. I’m all better now, though, I promise. From a musical perspective, the Richard D. James Album is all about strange juxtapositions. The big one is the contrast between the harsh rapidfire percussion and the soothing melodic lines underneath. To my understanding, this is a common technique today (at least by IDM standards), but in 1996? I wouldn’t really know. But this sound, portioned out into compact little tracks, makes for an interesting experience at the very least.

If I ignore the aforementioned beats, what strikes me about RDJ is how ‘organic’ many of the tracks sound. There are obvious synthesizer lines and pads, but also an orchestra’s worth of simulated symphonic instruments strewn throughout the album. Besides falling way outside my own expectations, this especially doesn’t stereotypically jive with the drills in the rhythm section. That’s enough to forcibly fixate me on the fractured aesthetic, and focusing on it makes for difficult writing, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s entirely necessary. If you cut out the entire rhythm section for whatever reason, you’d have an entirely different experience – not something that necessarily matches up well with the rest of RDJ’s pre-1996 (this) discography, but a very restrained recording. You’d also have fewer problems with ear pain if your sound system wasn’t properly set up with a consistent frequency response; this album is exceedingly trebly to the point I notice it even on my relatively tuned desktop, and that I even find it hard to handle on less precise EQs like that of my phone.

For the most part, the songwriting here is more conventional, although I have no idea what prompted Richard to write “Logan Rock Witch” (by far, the least appropriate track for a session of Hearts of Iron). It’s the usual IDM “new element/permutation every 4/8 bars” shtick; like other forms of pop songwriting, people use it because it’s easy and it works if you know what you’re doing. You could argue that the short songs work against this idea, but this is where the hyperactive rhythm section actually comes in handy, by blasting through as many patterns as possible and therefore creating useful, attention-grabbing variations in texture over time. A good deal of it seems to be in the interest of wacky sound effects, though. Ultimately, I think the songwriting here functions at least in a pop sense, but the aforementioned aesthetic juxtaposition does make it harder to accurately judge this.

Any flaws I perceive in RDJ don’t seem to stop me from listening to it, so that’s got to count for something. Maybe I should check back in a year or so and see how well this holds up?

Highlights: ” Peek 824545201″, “Carn Marth”, “Yellow Calx”

Flash Fiction Month #5: Lone Wolf On The Battlefield

Flash Fiction Month comes to an end with this installment, but the concept of flash fiction lives on! You might see more of it in the future. Read the previous installment here.


Excerpts from an anonymous letter:

Inevitably, historians will claim my downfall came at the moment I managed to weaponize student loans. I’m surprised nobody had the idea back in the days of metal currency, or even paper currency (which is obviously lighter, but it wads up well), but it turns out that even a simple credit card can wreak havoc, as long as it’s fired at relativistic velocities. The first shot wasn’t merely liberating. I imagine conventional gun owners enjoy the first shot beyond all the others for the power it unlocks within them, but when your first shot tears a hole in a mountain and keeps going, unscathed but for the trail of a superheated shockwave it tears across the sky, you would know you’ve come upon a weapon of immense power.

The targets, on the other hand? I initially wanted them to believe that I was simply trying to make them wealthier, but no matter how much I preloaded the charge cards with cash, none of them really had the manual dexterity or heat resistance to snatch my ammunition out of the air, at least not in a form that the average ATM would accept. My aim wasn’t very accurate, but it didn’t really matter since even a near miss was enough to turn anything nearby into a dark shadow on the ground. Incidentally, I feel like I’m running out of things to shoot at, but even now I occasionally see a tank or a helicopter on the horizon. I think they’re out to get me, and I keep trying to bribe them to go away, but I’m running really low on wealth and I’m afraid my bank won’t offer me a loan so I can keep going for a bit.

I actually managed to catch some emergency broadcasts early in my travels. They’d already labeled my efforts a “mad rampage” and were telling everyone to get as far away as physically possible in order to avoid being vaporized. I realize that my actions have cost some lives, but frankly, the media has some really messed up priorities. At no point did anyone discuss the economic aspect of what I was doing, and even I can think of a few consequences – mostly related to deflation and the other effects of a reduced money supply. Still, a few hundred thousand dollars of debt multiplied by a few hundred shots, while enough money that you shouldn’t scoff at it, is a drop in the bucket compared world currency reserves. Things probably won’t get that bad.

Anyways, I think I see another plane on the horizon. I hope it’s not a passenger jet; I’ve already set a dangerous precedent by firing at one and I would hate for Boeing or Airbus to lose even more of their assets.

Flash Fiction Month #4: Religious Epiphany

I know little about the readers of Invisible Blog, and their browsing behavior, but they can always read the 3rd installment here.


“What’s that on the road? It looks sticky,” my daughter Anna said to me one warm, sunny day when I was supervising my childrens’ play time. She was pointing at a dark red discoloration towards the center that was roughly aligned with our driveway, perfectly placed for cars to repeatedly run over it. I sighed – with her fifth birthday a few months behind her, she was beginning to notice things about the world that I could not leave unexplained lest she begin to develop some dangerous ideas.

“That, my daughter, is God. You must treat it with the utmost respect and reverence,” I explained. She raised an eyebrow; meanwhile, her twin brother George waddled over to listen; even though he’d asked the question a few months earlier, his presence, knowing grin, and overfed mass would help drive in my points.

“Mommy told me that there are many gods, like Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya, and others. Is that Loki?” Anna asked me. This presented something of a problem I had to deal with before I could continue.

“Your mother, as a devout Odinist, will never agree with me on religious matters. We promised not to argue about it, but just between you and me… well… I don’t believe in those gods and never will,” I responded. As I spoke, I got out of the lawnchair I’d been reclining in, walked over to our cooler, and picked out a sealed vial of chilled blood. It was about a day old (I’d drawn it personally from a passing solicitor), but the cold had kept it reasonably fresh until then.

“By far, the most important part of worshiping God is feeding it, so that it may manifest more powerfully in our world. I will demonstrate.” I walked over to the stain, and after making sure there was no oncoming traffic, I unsealed the blood and slowly dribbled it onto the red stain in the road.

“How often do you do this?” Anna asked.

“No less than every three days, and preferably more. God is hungry and must feed until the great awakening… which could even be today, if we’re lucky.”

And then we were lucky, for the blood-stained asphalt began to glow bright yellow. Eerie multicolored runes and sigils appeared in midair, tracing an elliptical orbit twelve feet tall and perhaps half as wide. I gestured for Anna and George to stand back as the air between the corruptions faded to a dull brown, interspersed with a foul gray smoke that was beginning to expand out towards us. I remembered this from my training – any moment now, something would emerge from the coalescing portal to reward my efforts in tending to it!

“ARE YOU THE BEING WHO SUMMONED ME?” a voice called out, seemingly from everywhere and nowhere, although most likely still on the other side of the portal.

“Oh great master from beyond, it is I who has brought you forth into this world to do as you please! What is thy bidding?” I shouted back. Usually, I wouldn’t be so obsequious, but I had to set a good example for my daughter.

“DON’T OPEN THIS PORTAL AGAIN. I’M TRYING TO FARM PRESTIGE IN BLACK OPS III.”

With that, the portal popped out of existence with none of the drama that had heralded its initial appearance. The red stain on the ground disappeared. Anna raised an eyebrow.

“So… uh… is your mother taking converts?” I asked Anna, but she ignored me as she went back inside to play with George.