A new collaborative effort from Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin and Tim Hecker, Instrumental Tourist
I was excited to hear that Hecker had a new album being released, even though it was in conjunction with one of my more unliked artists shall we say, Danial Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never. Both of these artists are pretty much at the top of their careers now though so I was still hopeful for a strong album and…meh.
The issue I have with this release is its surprisingly wild inconsistency. Balancing on the fringe of Hecker’s sphere of influence and taking much more of the electroacoustic/glitch sounds from Lopatin’s work means essentially creating an album with the worst of both worlds; one where Lopatin has priority and Hecker doesn’t have the aural space he needs to work his magic.
Admittedly things start really well with recent single “Uptown Psychedelia”, riding in on a disjointed mass of synth fiddlings and just about discernible guitar fused with a quintessentially Hecker-esque layer of noise. So far, so good as “Scene From A French View” rolls in and then my personal favourite, “Vaccination (For Thomas Mann)”, both of which float along uncomfortably and gracelessly with delicate strings and light drones, softening the senses and lowering the mood to one of melancholy. The nail(s) in the coffin is the tenuous strings that top it all off with their ethereal and sombre tones and especially the early-Eno like vocal coos in “Vaccination” just add an extra, depressing texture.
Unfortunately, things take a sudden turn for the worse with the aptly named “Intrusions” shattering the carefully drawn tensions and beautiful airs with abrasive and unwarranted blats of abrasive noise, continuing on with nearly 5 minutes of electronic wankery in a similar vein. This is where things for me getting difficult, as the whole EAI (electro-acoustic improvisation) aspect of this album begins to kick in. Things start to seem messy, chaotic and unnecessary as complicated and distorted textures tumble over each other in an incoherent yet frustratingly near-logical way. “Whole Earth Tascam” teeters on the precipice of intention, umming and ahhing over its sonic direction before segueing into the wildly unnecessary interstitial “GRM Blue I” and the dated synths and general noise knobbery of “GRM Blue II”. The entire middle sequence of this album is skippable and, in all honestly, pointless. There is no sense of purpose, no logical reason why any of it is there, just random, aimless noises butted against one another.
Thankfully it begins to redeem itself late game as the much more drone orientated “Racist Done” settles into place, shimmering and gliding with the assistance of some acoustic instrumentation darkly into the excellent “Traccia 09”, sounding hollow and resigned with its (pan-pipes?) and wailing electronica. Once it closes we may as well just skip “Grey Geisha” and the title track and jump straight to the end with “Vaccination No. 2” just to get it over with. We start to hear some Hecker like sounds push through with some really grating feedback and scary howls of sound falling away rapidly as the curtains finally fall on Instrumental Tourist.
It’s a frustrating album because, barring a few tracks, I feel like I can just skip through the latter part, if not the entirety, of most pieces and not feel like I’m missing anything. The entire record is a very messy and unstructured mass of sounds that just drift aimlessly in and out of their own accord. The improvisational aspect makes it feel just like two guys pissing around and experimenting; it’s cool in the process and sometimes they strike gold and produce something genuinely beautiful and interesting, but does it really deserve to be compiled and released? I feel no.
These are just a few of the thousands of words I could use to describe Blanck Mass’s performance last night. I wont bother going into detail with the previous acts since I didnt really catch a great deal of them (I was too busy drinking), in fact I missed one altogether and only caught the latter half of another, but I will say that the guy who played immediately before BM was dropping some pretty darn decent deep house/techno stuff (I think his name’s patten and he’s a DJ). Clocked “Cos-Ber-Zam – Ne Noya” from the new Daphni LP at the start of his set which was great. Russel Haswell was the other big warmup act who I only caught some of, and that was some punishing experimentalism right there. Huge levels of noise and feedback.
I’m not sure what Benjamin Power opened with; he was having technical problems initially and ended up plugging something in and sandpapering everyone’s faces off with a wall of noise, but I’m pretty sure he slipped into “Sifted Gold” and then into “Chernobyl”, both of which were significantly extended versions. “Chernobyl” was the best part of the evening for me though, by a long way. Huge walls of glistening sound punctuated by these gargantuan throbs of sub-bass pounding through, it was utterly mesmerising. I honestly needed to sit down, it was completely overwhelming; I’ve never heard anything quite so gigantic and heartbreaking. Chasing this up (I think, it’s sort of blended together) was perhaps the most incredibly climaxing track I have ever heard. It was utterly relentless, just piles and piles of pink noise, feedback and electronic tinklings falling over one another at 1000mph, continuously rising for minutes on end. There were numerous times when I thought “this has to be it now, it can’t go any further”, but by some aural trickery it just kept on and on before plateauing and then bottoming out. It was…utterly ridiculous, completely indescribable and absolutely brilliant.
Much of the rest of the set (which was only an hour long) was occupied by what I assume was his own work, mostly flitting between progressive electronic, noise and techno. In fact, much of it was extremely rhythmic; certainly not dance worthy but more than enough to get your feet tapping and head nodding. As he slipstreamed into this more rhythmic phase there was a track of extremely fragmented and chaotic beats, glitched out with piles of white noise and other abrasive over-layers, barreling along at high speed with insufficient coherency to keep your head nodding to but sufficiently unfragmented enough to make out the melody. He finally ended the set with recent single “White Math”, the perfect 10 minute outro to tie together the more beat driven electronic with his comparatively “older” and noisier work.
Power looked totally cool and collected on the set, pausing every so often just to stand there with his eyes closed and soak it all in, something I’ll admit to doing a number of times. The music was absolutely bone-crushing but in the best possible way; I’ve always said that the only way to enjoy this kind of music is just at stupid volumes because a lot of the emotional nuances only become obvious at ear-damaging levels. Intoxicating stuff, makes me very excited to see what Fuck Button’s are going to deliver at Pitchfork.