Virtual Vacation (LINEAR OBSESSIONAL RECORDINGS LOR093) is a split between two UK lads from the North – one from Middlesbrough, one from Newcastle via Middlesbrough. Finding myself underwhelmed by Plastiglomerate’s four cuts of subdued and treated drones, even though I do enjoy the evocative one-word titles such as ‘Storms’, or ‘Winter’ or ‘Japan’. Too process-heavy, short on ideas; I’m all for stretching a sound out to as long as digital delay will carry it, but where does it leave us? I’m not sensing any escape from my surroundings, and the further in we go the more we stay in the same place. However, Plastiglomerate does have a nice line in supermarket muzak records which occasionally bleed into the bleak mix, making this imaginary area resemble the abandoned shopping mall from Hell. Thomas Tyler is the name behind this solo project and he’s also a visual artist. If his paintings are anything like these under-nourished wispy denatured drones, then I’d wager he favours sickly gray-green colours and lots of turpentine washes. The joke’s on me if he doesn’t paint on canvas.
Other half of the album is occupied by boringcharlie.. Some of his titles refer to weather or to the physical shape of the world (at least that’s how I choose to read ‘Geographic’, even though the music in no way supports the idea). One of his tunes is called ‘Destroy’, which may raise your hopes for a Merzbow-like number of harsh noise or destructive power electronics slammed in the mush. Instead, boringcharlie. simply doodles on a Casio keyboard or other digital device with keys, tuned to a wimpy electric piano or harp pre-set. Very ordinary chord sequences are played with great deliberation with pregnant pauses in between each figure; with this flat, stilted way of playing, he seems to be going out of his way to refuse syncopation, dynamics, or any kind of compositional / performing device that might make his music interesting. While this may seem like the musical equivalent of a “cat-sat-on-the-mat” remedial reading lesson, there remains a wistful and emotional quality to the music which is hard to pin down. If Charlie Wood really believes he himself is “boring”, or that life is boring, he may have found a way to sublimate these feelings and turn them into art. Or he has moved beyond being bored into some passive acceptance of his condition, and uses his keyboard music as a thinking aid as he gazes out of the window impassively.
While not the most exciting release on this eclectic label, I can kinda see how Virtual Vacation was selected for publication, and one or two of its hooks may find a way into your inner chambers yet. From 23rd January 2018.