Conjectures: an adventure with a Moog synthesiser yields rich treasure along the way

Todd Anderson-Kunert, Conjectures, Australia, Room40, RM4110 vinyl record (2019)

No, your eyes are not playing tricks and the album cover is not blank: the five small dots in the lower half of the cover look like birds flying, with one bird seemingly trailing the flock in distance and altitude. This photograph may reflect feelings of being alone and uncertainty about the destination ahead that Australian musician Todd Anderson-Kunert might have had when he undertook a residency at the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio in 2018. His solution to navigating the studio facilities and becoming familiar with its instruments and equipment was to concentrate on one instrument, the Moog System 55 synthesiser, and the result is a mostly quiet recording that may capture the mix of awe, respect for the instrument and trepidation in using it (without damaging anything or wrecking someone else’s equipment or database) the artist could have had.

The first track “I See What You Mean” sounds very much like an exercise in exploring the Moog’s range of sounds and its potential for expressing Anderson-Kunert’s aims and feelings: parts of the piece sound a bit wary, as if the artist and the machine alike were circling each other like cats almost about to rip into each other over the fence. Second track “It Feels Right” – notice how the titles almost reflect the tentative, exploratory, quaking-in-his-boots feeling the artist has – has a bit more variety in its long droning tones. Listeners can feel a bit of sunshine and warmth coming through the darkness. Hang on in there, Todd! This reviewer is with you all the way.

On the whole, this is a slow and steady work that is more about a journey into an unknown and unfamiliar realm with few or no guides, than it is about communicating something: and yet the process itself does say something to listeners who follow. Everyone starting on a new adventure will feel himself / herself on shaky ground, even when there are others around who can offer help and reassurance, and often to go forward you just concentrate on the route that seems best (which may not be the easiest) with loads of patience on your side.

At the end of the journey, you realise that becoming familiar with the Moog is less important than the adventure of familiarisation: the journey is highly immersive with rich atmospheric and evocative soundscapes experienced along the way.

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