Cell Phone Symphony In A-Minor ...

Music for office machines, made by office machines ...

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.

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.