The debut full length album by Brett Naucke provides another window into the rude health of the underground of electronic music in the United States. Building on the model laid down by DIY noise labels such as Hanson, artists have been exploring and experimenting with new genres thanks to the freedom offered by how cheap it is to produce physical releases and an existing network of open minded distributors, bloggers and promoters. Now the artists that define this ever-evolving landscape are starting to gain greater attention with vinyl releases on bigger labels and wider distribution.
Naucke fits the image perfectly. A vital cog in the machine with his own Catholic Tapes label, he has been releasing music in small editions since 2007. ‘Seed’ is hard to pigeon hole and more than anything feels part of a broader conversation in the world of leftfield experimental music, jumping between ambient meditation, abstract composition and skittish percussion.
The press release for the album draws a lot of attention to the fact that it entirely is built around manipulations of the same synth patch. This insight into the process is fascinating, but this is more than academic music. However, ignorance of the means of composition will not affect your enjoyment of the album and to be honest it deserves to be heard without distractions concerning its creation. Perhaps the main impact it has had is in the sense of connection between the tracks, a feeling they have all sprouted from the same ‘seed’.
‘Up From the Sun’ and ‘Seed’ are constructed from frenetic percussion and modular bleeps. They combine to create rhythm tracks that feel like the work of a particularly energetic free jazz drummer. They are loose and unpredictable but always grounded in a structure.
On ‘Luau’ eerie vocal samples float over twitching electronics into a ritualistic atmosphere, ‘Harp of the Evening Garden’ starts with a radio tuning before locking itself into a slow hypnotic groove. The album repeatedly dabbles with percussive and more abrasive textures but its core is a lush ambience. Like a Niblock composition, sustained tones don’t seem to start or end. They float into the consciousness and disappear, or overlap into subtle crescendos.
This is an album of deep headphone music, a unique analysis of texture. It floats around ideas of sound art and ambient music but mixes these with scattered electronics and fragmented field recordings. Each track acts as a mini composition, an exploration of ideas that feel connected however disparate the individual components might initially seem.
The process behind Seed’s creation often seems quite academic. Superficially it is similar to some of Keith Fullerton Whitman’s recent output, work built on an obsessive analysis of the processes of making music. This was of course part of the creation of Naucke’s album, but the scientific impulses have been reined in and played alongside an ability to make something organic, melodic and deeply listenable.