A Whole Lot of Sound!

A Whole Lot of Sound!

Adriana SaboThursday,16 April 2015

Before me now, I have an EP titled Meelazlan (1979), created by Chris Caukwell, a collection of 6 tracks: “jīnchán tuōqiào”, “Shaihalud”, “p=m/v”, “David, Son of Abraham”, “186” and “…on The Forest floor,,,”. They are labeled as alternative, but also as products of experiments. I must say that the label “experiment” here is used more as a force of habit, than as a determination of something really experimental.

Now, to be fair, I’m sure that Caukwell did feel like he was experimenting while he was making this really interesting and creatively done collection of tracks. Meelazlan (1979) is described by its maker as a “collection of experiments, soundtrack to the greatest sci-fi film never made, indulging my love of long intros, short plateaus, impossible midi concoctions and found sound.” But — again, to be fair — none of this is really something new. It has mostly been done before, so why the experiment? Experimental has become a standard, a label that is usually automatically added to any computer or electronic music. Now, when John Cage started composing with I Ching, relinquishing control over the music he made, that was experimental. So was the idea of playing on a cactus, or the belief that collecting mushrooms is a form of making music. John Cage was the father of the experimental music and this is the long tradition that has ever since been cultivated in the U.S. It has also lost most of its “experimentality.”

In this sense Meelazlan (1979) corresponds heavily to a few other traditions. Found sounds, that he uses quite creatively, come from France, the work of Pierre Shcaeffer and his concrete music. Repetitiveness of figures is reminiscent of the American minimalists and an especially good effect on this album was made through the simulation of 8-bit music, possibly inspired by old computer games. Most tracks are dominated by synths, either playing long notes or repetitive figures; they serve as a base for other musical materials such as manipulated voice, recordings of speech etc. The whole EP has a really high emotional level, keeping you, as the listener, “on the edge of your seat” most of the time. The artificial, repetitive sounds might just push you over the edge, so make sure you don’t listen to Meelazlan (1979) while nervous or tired.

Each of the 6 tracks presents a different mixture of influences that have obviously shaped the taste of Chris Caukwel. The first track passes in a swift crescendo of sound and volume that ends abruptly, leaving your ears buzzing. “Shaihalud” is “overcrowded,” so it is almost impossible to hear much else other than really loud volumes of sounds. “Nervous synths” define   “p=m/v,” “David, Son of Abraham” and “186,” after which you feel like you’ve had more than enough (actually, your ears send you that message, while your brain is intrigued). “…on The Forest floor,,,” ends the album in a fury of sounds and screams that leave you a tad disoriented.

Meelazlan (1979) by  Chris Caukwell shows a lot of potential, yet it also reveals an artist fascinated by the world of synths and electronics, who is not yet able to articulate everything he knows, thus resulting in the EP sounding like a mish-mash of all the sounds he was fascinated with, at times lacking in coherency and clear sense of the whole. But he’ll get there and find his unique voice. Of that I’m sure.

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