(I.D.M., the tag used on this album's mp3s, stands for "Intelligent Dance Music". It's a loathsome, divisive moniker so please understand that I've used it in this review's title because I'm highly proficient at weak humour.)
Listening to this three-track EP by Detroit resident Richard Sudney, released under his artistic pseudonym of Monopole, is akin to taking your seat in a darkened cinema and hearing the swish of parting curtains; suddenly, you're not in Kansas anymore. Monopole is a fan of Big Band music and jazz and, strangely enough, this shows: despite Silent Movie Surround Sound being a very modern essay in electronica, all three tracks use a clickety-clack rhythm that is a distant cousin to the purring movie projectors of those madcap years between the world wars.
Today's recommended track is, in my oh-so-swaggering opinion, an absolute stunner. Stereo-vision Radio makes epic use of hypnotic chimes, flanging white-noise, rattling percussion, dusty crackles and field recordings to steal a few minutes from your life and point you down a yellow brick road. Listen to this without interruption and you might experience one of those "I am the centre of global cool" moments that sometimes occur when trawling through the wonderful world of Creative Commons music:
It's quite a stew, isn't it? Real headphones territory. It's surprisingly fast-paced for a track that contains so much ambient noise. I especially like the compositional line that takes the listener on a David Lynch-esque journey, including a spooky bridging section that slows everything to a standstill before slurring back up to full speed. There are snatches of barely audible field recordings buried in the mix that ensure the listener is drawn deep into the track. When Monopole slams a door at the song's end and complains, "Ah, this won't work!", be sure to send him an email and assure him that it does, in fact, work rather well.
The title track, Silent Movie Surround Sound, is ostensibly about the upfront percussive glitches, but they're just the bones; the meat comes from the breathy white noise and the synths swelling slowly in the background. Again, chimes add a contemplative air to proceedings. The latter part of SMSS probably employs, like the rest of the album, manipulated field recordings from the abandoned factories and warehouses of once-busy Detroit and/or samples from the analogue electronics and outdated valve-driven communications equipment that Monopole has stashed in his basement recording studio/Dr Evil lair.
Main Feature Intermission, with it's low-key snap, crackle and pop percussion, is the final and most straightforward of the three tracks - until drones and background noises join the party, when it claims its rightful place as the third part of Monopole's introspective trio. Like the rest of the album, there's a still, meditative quality to the composition even though every last second is crammed with notes, sounds, clicks and burrs. (If Silent Movie Surround Sound were vinyl, it'd need a duster.) Phasing synths, airport announcements, gruff percussion and echoing footfalls bring proceedings to a transcendental close. Don't they always?
Monopole is one of those musicians who makes me realise that there's still a lot of music yet to be composed. He has yoked his talent and imagination to music technology and produced some enthralling results. I hope his efforts bring him the recognition he deserves.
It's a pleasure finally to snuggle up to Test Tube netlabel, known for its exemplary presentation of experimental electronica (and alliteration). I couldn't quite click with some of their releases but now I'm happy to give them the glad eye and pat the empty seat next to me in the back row of the cinema.
Monopole - Silent Movie Surround Sound (link to individual mp3s and zipped album)
Monopole on MySpace (where you'll find other treats)