Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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Mick Sussman: The Kressel Studies

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Artist: Mick Sussman
Title: The Kressel Studies
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Carrier Records
Mick Sussman here continues his experiments with music generation via software code and pseudorandom numbers. What’s offered up is a set of twenty-four outputs, none named, all numbered in the style of software version numbers. Every piece is between 150 and 180 seconds long.

But despite the strict uniformity of those aspects, the sounds contained therein are actually fairly diverse, within a certain scope. That scope I would lazily describe as “Radiophonic Workshop 1960’s”- all the pulse and wave-generated raw and analogue experimental noises of the period, with some rough-edged effects and reverbs, and pitch changes that feel tape-motor-speed-adjustment driven. Some pieces add gently carved and treated noise generation in for a more percussive feel. For something so absolutely digital in form, there’s quite an analogue feel to it somehow.

There are chaotic pieces that wear their randomisation boldly, such as the manic “26.2.21” or “33.5.1”. Others, like “27.6.18” with its harpsichord-and-bell-like play-harmonisation, are equally random but lesser paced, giving them a dreamier feel. A handful, such as “28.1.6”, spin off in a rather sillier direction, with noises with, bluntly, sound like comedy farting played at different pitches.

Iterations 37 and 38, at the end of the album, adopt a more abstract and ambient feel, with less skittish melodies being replaced by longer drones and atmospheric sounds, as though the program has matured or settled, which wraps it up nicely. Other than that though, composition-based observations are certainly thin on the ground.

The programming-minded among us may leave feeling a little underfed with information about how this generation was done. I found myself itching to see the code under the hood, to see the ‘score’ that had created this work- but given its potential, it makes sense that it might be regarded as commercially sensitive.

The abstraction of it is quite alienating, and while some pieces (e.g. “27.6.18”) are fairly soft and accessible, as an hour-long listening experience it’s cerebral but not wholly engaging, just slightly failing to offer up enough variety or enough coincidences in the randomisation to really hook you in. But, said in the style of a certain famous sci-fi android, the result is still “fascinating”.

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