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Modulation & Transformation 3
(Mille Plateaux MP43 2XCD/3XLP)
- Peter Shapiro

In Wire, February 1998, Issue 168.


With a couple of notable exceptions, theory and music make very strange bedfellows. By striking a balance between self-consciously theoretical music and music that allows the audience to do all of the intellectualizing, Achim Szepanski's Mille Plateaux label is usually one of those exceptions. On this release, however, the balance has slipped towards the former, with too many half-understood buzzwords thrown around to camouflage a distinctly static and stagnant soundworld.

I wouldn't mind reading about Terre Thaemlitz's "What is Between is Missing," which uses soundbites from America's Sally Jesse Raphael TV talk show to concoct a potentially powerful statement about the construction of gender in a tabloid world, but listening to it leaves me with too much of the intellectual work and not enough of the pleasure. Elsewhere, as on Oval's dreary "Indirekt 4" or DJ Spooky's ostentatious, but insubstantial "Nodal Flux," the opposite is true: the music has been theorised out of existence before the fact. Pieces like Max Eastley and Thomas Köner's elegiac live performance snippet, Arno Peters' eerie "Into Spherical Structures," Cristian Vogel's impressionistic "My Bird In The Attic" and Pluramon's intricate but communicative "Flex" show how this sort of thing should be done by making feedback, interference and dronescaping not only part of an interrogation about the nature of music, but part of an effort to break down the walls of Electronica's cerebral, smartboy ghetto as well.