Very impressed with this Segmod (DUMPF EDITION #12) item released on the Swiss label Dumpf Edition. It showcases a “non-standard sound synthesis program” called Segmod developed by two guys, Luc Dobereiner and Martin Lorenz. Right away I’m out of my depth with what this program might be or what it might entail, but for the next ten mins I’ll assume it’s computer software that could possibly operate on a Mac or a PC. Unless it’s like one of those Plumbutter-type affairs, a modular synth thing which I understand even less.
On the disc, sixteen artistes (including the inventors) proceed to explore the possibilities of this new toy, delivering some impressive and at times quite astonishing results. Noise, clicks, textures, patterns, grids…everyone seems intent on mapping out new directions, suggestions for things this tool could be used to do. It’s mostly constructed from various types of “periodic waveforms”, and it is my guess that there is no keyboard extension involved at all (one of the things which, some would argue, has compromised the Moog by forcing that instrument down a pseudo-musical pathway which musicians could use to indulge their fancy skills.) I might say that very little of the sound here resembles “music” in a conventional sense, it’s all rather abstract, and in some cases constitutes the very extreme end of experimental sound synthesis.
This marks a break with a certain class of electronica-type releases, whose creators evidently want to keep one foot in the “avant-techno” pool just in case they might alienate too many listeners, or perhaps clasp onto fragments of a melody for those segments of the audience who are sentimental enough to remember popular song. Not so here, where edgy and radical experimentation is the catch of the day, yielding many fine haddocks of stern and relentless nature. Maybe the sleeve design affects my mind, but I can’t help hearing everything as a stark black-and-white grid image of some sort, a kind of souped-up Op Art foray into aural domains. Lest ye now think this is nothing much more than a process record to demonstrate capabilities of Segmod, the pent-up energy and crunchy powerful blasts should soon persuade you of the passion behind these alien tones. So much so, that one is reluctant to position it alongside the more formal experiments of 20th century electronic music, with which it probably has little in common. Rather, I’m reminded of certain items from the Mego label of about 20 years ago, at a time when computers and making music from soundfiles on a laptop seemed all new and exciting. I seem to recall when hearing some of these mad Austrian records by Pita, Bauer and Farmers Manual that I tended to reach for metaphors about the “guts” of the computer, as though we were hearing printed circuits and binary data rethought as music. Some of these same clumsy metaphors may apply today.
Getting back to my non-comprehension of the technology, the label summarises this achievement by describing “inaudible sounds…neural networks, chaotic functions, careful micro-montages, and analysis-resynthesis techniques” when accounting for some of the work of these composers; the aim is that synthesis (whatever that may entail) should be regarded as a valid form of composition in itself. This line of thought is explored further in a short essay by Leonie Reineke, which can be seen on the label’s Bandcamp page. As to the contributors to this item, the only name I recognise is Jliat, an English ultra-minimal conceptualist who contributed a track lasting precisely 60 seconds in length. A fine set which is worth investigating….from 2nd January 2020.