Hums and Hisses

2. At times the beat gives way altogether to great swaths of moodiness. Nonetheless, I would consider this a dance record, though maybe only some of the tracks would be welcome on dance floors other than my own. One of the musicians, Phil Western, has been a DJ, so he for sure knows more about dance floors than I do.

3. Probably more of these sounds than I'd realized are created by instruments played through filters and devices rather than by programming and tape manipulation (though there's a lot of that too). This album still sounds fundamentally composed and programmed rather than improvised, not that I can necessarily tell the difference. And not that this makes a difference.

4. I'd managed to put out of my memory altogether the sheets of moodiness that frequently descend on this music, probably because I'm not a big fan of mood music. I definitely prefer the groovefests on here to the moodfests. E.g., a moody synth that reminds me of records that are meant to remind me of the seashore. Not to say that I have anything against the seashore, just against records that remind me of it— though the moods here are "darker" than that suggests (not in all cases gloomier, just darker: i.e., serious and more dissonant); also, I'm tending to think that "mood" is bad and gizmo squirts and hums are "good," moodiness is sap and gizmos are grit. But without the bad mood (so to speak) the gizmos might just be ongoing boring effects. Gizmos need this dusky niceness to have something to be hard and noisy against. Perhaps.

Cevin Key pets his skinny puppy.
photo: Ted Soqui
Cevin Key pets his skinny puppy.



My usage of the term mood music seems pretty damn arbitrary, doesn't it? For instance, there's a cut that's edgy and irritating, and which I like, therefore, far more than the mood piece that precedes it. But in ordinary conversation, edginess and irritation would be considered moods, as would excitement and so forth. Just not in mood music.

And the official word here would be ambient, as used in a review of spacEcakE I found on the Web (otherwise I wouldn't have thought of it, I swear). Actually I don't think that "ambient" is appropriate. This music doesn't come out and easily envelop you— or, it doesn't easily envelop me. There's a movement to the sounds, the way the tones progress each into the next, and if you're not attentive to the progression you miss too much of the story of the music. (And maybe for people who are easily enveloped by this music, their attention comes easily to the progressions, too.)

5. There is a singer on here, though she's only on a couple of tracks, and she's there for mood too, not for melody or focus.

6. Phil Western and cEvin Key (the capitalized E is his doing not mine), who are the core of platEAU, play together in Download, and before that Key was in Skinny Puppy, which makes this music "industrial" by association if not by sound, maybe. Anyway, I'm glad I didn't know this when I first listened; not because I really endorse ignorance and naïveté as a way to approach music (not to know a music's antecedents and environment is a good way not to hear what matters in it), but because I had such a prejudice against Skinny Puppy that I'd probably have heard spacEcakE in a twisted and wrong way. I'd typed Skinny Puppy right off as pretentious dolts who thought ugliness in itself was interesting and transgressive, that it was profoundly evocative of the doom of life. I avoided the band, and so what I've just written about them says nothing about their music, which I hardly know at all, just about my prejudices.

But in any event, maybe some of the sounds that Key and Western enjoy making remind them of the clank of machinery. And reverting to an earlier theme, I'll point out that the clank— the noise of industrial machines— is extraneous to their function, and so, once again, music that mimics that noise is mimicking unintended side effects.

7. The most important word in the previous paragraph is enjoy. This is a fun record (for me)— fun not as in "bright and poppy" but more like "chemistry experiments that you can do in the home when Mommy's not looking."

Metropolis Records, P.O. Box 54307, Philadelphia, PA 19105;

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