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Means from an End
(Mille Plateaux MPCD44 CD)
- Chris Sharp

In Wire, March 1998, Issue 169.


For Terre Thaemlitz, sonic synthesis is analogous to a bewildering, yet liberating multiplicity of historically determined social agendas. It is also his tool for commenting on that multiplicity. Though his theories undoubtedly come first, that's not to say his music disintegrates if you remove its theoretical scaffold. Besides, the weighty language masks a radical playfulness - the project is far more engaging than first appears.

The disc comes in four sections. The first, called "Inelegant Implementations," loops brief jazz snippets and passes them through a waveform analysis of radical/pop cultural soundbites, for reasons Thaemlitz's sleevenotes best fathom. The second part is a sonic essay on "overcoming resistance to radical social change," which translates as a witty deconstruction of Billy Joel. "Still Life w/Numerical Analysis" is an eight minute sound collage around a high register operatic drone - which softens you up for the last part, the title track itself. "Means from an End" bombards the listener with high frequency noises. In his attempt to deploy music as an agent of deconditioning, Thaemlitz's methods come close to the audiences-baiting techniques of Non and Throbbing Gristle. But in its final transition from Metal Machine Music aggression to the Enoid serenity of Evening Star, Thaemlitz raises the suspicion that he's not quite the stern neo-Marxist theoretician he makes himself out to be.