I'm sure that the artists putting this CD together have some long, academic
explanation for the pure-white cover. Something like, "Cover art creates a
false context within which the listener experiences the aural content. The
imagery that accompanies a CD is a form of commercialism that personalizes
artistic genesis and emphasizes the personality and aesthetic of the artist
over the content of the CD."
Whatever the reason -- the cover is pure white. It's hard to figure out the
title of the album or even what it sounds like. But the menu is not
The food, in this case, is 12 of experimental music's finest innovators
contributing tracks to an album called Meme 000; 77 minutes of
minimalist experimentation from the likes of: ultrasound, Jim O'Rourke,
tamaru, Ryoji Ikeda, John Hudak and others. The album is a droning,
mesmerizing sampler from the other side of the musical fence. This is not
a party album, this really isn't even dinner music; this is more like a
collection of all of those sounds you hear every day without really
noticing. Like the sound of a faraway train approaching, the white noise
of channel 147 turned up full-blast or even that strange sound the ATM
machine makes as it prepares to dispense your cash.
From the first sounds of "audible(by hand)" by Stilluppsteypa, Meme
000 explores the gray area between sound and music. "audible(by hand)"
is a quiet composition featuring subdued white-noise, droning tones and
various hums and whines. However, far from being simply a collection of
sounds, the piece succeeds as a coherent piece of music through the
arrangement of the sounds in relation to one another.
Japanese experimentalist Ryoji Ikeda's piece, "Interference 002," is little
more than a single droning bass-note. This exercise in minimalism may sound
uninteresting until the listener begins to realize how many elements
combine to form a single bass-note. And as the piece plays on, the sound
itself begins to demonstrate its own complexity.
The thing about experimental music is that it is not enough to simply say,
"I have created something that sounds nothing like music and that's what
makes it good." In fact, experimentalists have the unenviable task of not
only constantly creating a new form of music but also of mastering it.
Instead of attempting to work within the confines of a pre-existing
aesthetic, these musicians are trying to create an entirely new one. Rather
than relying on a hook, a chorus or even an image, these artists are
attempting to find beauty where popular thinking tells them there is none.
One of the more exciting tracks on the album is Rehburg & Bauer's "ned/ben,"
which growls, groans and farts electronic bits and bytes at the listener.
Without forcing the sounds into programmed coherence, the bloops and bleeps
punctuate the piece at opportune moments, creating a sort of synthesized
feeling of suspense.
For the most part, all of the tracks on Meme 000 are created on a
computer, pushing buttons, pointing and clicking, cutting and pasting, etc.
The exception to this is Jim O'Rourke's track "there's hell in bern," which
consists of a single guitar exploring a wistful, almost flamenco-like chord
progression. The music drips with a sentimentality that the other tracks
seem to have left on their hard drives. You can hear the fingers on the
strings. "there's hell in bern" is similar to O'Rourke's acoustic work with
Gastr Del Sol, only stripped down to the bare bones. Not so much as a single
note is wasted during the five-and-a-half-minute ode to minimalism.
This isn't an album that will get the party people shaking their rumps. In
fact, whatever you do, don't play this album at a party -- that is, unless you
want people to leave. Bust out the Spice Girls or Fatboy Slim if you feel
like partying, but if you ever catch yourself grooving out to the sound of
a fax machine, then perhaps this album is for you.