Sunday, February 10, 2008

More Mystified

Following from the blog of 9 January some more on Thomas Park aka Mystified.

First, as noted at the end of that post I had only scratched the surface of his discography by focusing on Webbed Hands and Tree Trunk. By closely scrutinising his text discography (on the mystified site) I found a heap more. Regular readers of &etc across the years will know I am a bit of a completist where time, money and downloads allow. So I have been gathering these from a welter of labels (Nishi, Dreamland, Smell the stench, Jon7, Enough, Batman and Robin, Earthmantra, Blackflower, Infinite Sector, Dark Winter, Negative Sound Institute, Ben
ekkea, 20kbps, non-quality audio, TZP drone, Kahvi, Sine fiction, 4 4 2, Umbrella, Roil noise: is them all I think) [and will have to temper my urge to then download the rest of the labels - way too much music]. There are at least 45 releases available free from these sites on top of the thirty odd from Tree Trunk and Webbed Hands.

Recognising that this is a simplification there have been three 'phases' to Mystified's career to date
  • the first saw releases on Webbed Hands and a variety of net labels
  • then there was a greater focus on his own label Tree Trunk, but with other net labels getting a good look in
  • while currently cd-r and real label releases are coming to the fore.
Basically a fairish overview, but noting that there are still current web releases. Another simplification would be to suggest that the earlier stuff is more beaty, contains more samples while latterly there has been more minimal ambient. I would also venture to suggest that Mystified places his releases: the Nishi stuff is nicely beated and perhaps reflects the Autocad (Park's previous incarnation) relationship with Rapoon; while 20kbs is more dubby (an interesting label, its name describes its download aesthetic - small lo-fi); Umbrella noize has a couple of albums featuring sonography. Again, there is more here than is possibly to reasonably review, and all I can suggest is that you sample a fair whack of it as there is a host of high quality ambient, dub, grooved, minimal, sonographic music on offer. As analysed below they combine shorter tracks and often a broader diversity (eg Puzzle Street on Jon7 has moved from a groovy piece through some sonography (and back to it now) to AM layers which is extremely minimal: a hum and the end groove of a record).

(More generalisations - Mystified swings between long album length works and shorter collections of tracks about 6 minutes or less in length; a further generalisation - these collections are more common on the 'other label' releases. As of my collection today, 60% of the tracks on Webbed Hands/Tree Trunk are less than 5 minutes compared to 88% on other labels; the data for less than 7 minutes is 73% and 95% [it's the scientist in me! - I would do it by year too if I had the data.])

A problem that Mystified has created for himself, however, is why would anyone buy any of his releases? With so much on offer on the web, for free, purchasing may seem a poor second cousin to some. Reasons to buy however would include - better sound quality; having an actual artefact (which is important to some people); attracting people with a penchant for collecting something nearly unique by having a small run; and recognising that there will be a small but dedicated (and fluid) group of people who like the music so much they want as much as possible, another reason for smaller runs as this is not a huge market (but it is amazing how much product a prolific artist like Muslimgauze or Merzbow can sell). Anyway, in response to my previous review, Mystified has sent me two of his recent cd-rs.

Hazy Waves came out on Cloud Valley Recordings (cv-30) which is based in Canada and has runs of generally less than 50. Simple packaging that includes a track list, the cd-r is hand artfied and contains 9 songs in 43 minutes. In many of the long-form Mystified works there is a static minimalism: exemplified by Constant, which spawbed a series by other musicians, or his take on Rain. This disk contains what sound like fragments captured from longer works which have been going before you heard these bits and will still be going while you are listening to the next track. They fade in and then fade out. These are lovely pieces, Wavelength drifts in an eno-ish way exemplifying the structure here: a lovely tonal work playing over a soft buzzing - a juxtaposition seen throughout. Transmutation is whooshing over a watery flow; Fuzz drone has musical tones which surface through the fuzzy hiss and deep thrumming; Many legs with oscillating pulses, chattering and vinyl crackle-spatter. Another aspect is heard in Bring rain where a roiling cloud of sound is constantly moving forward without arriving, Amorphous is an amorphous subsonic rumbling, while the title track features a rapid chittering that sounds like a whooshing that softens and becomes more whooshy, again with tones deep within - as with much of this minimal ambient there is a psycho-acoustic quality where your brain creates other sounds from within the stasis. The edit from Chronos has more variability in its short presence, and is a fine conclusion to a nice little album (edition of 33 - hurry).

The other is Escaping Physics, the first release from Sentient Recognition Archive, in an edition of 50: 11 songs in 49 minutes. Again, these are short, often excerpts, but seem more enclosed than Hazy. A couple of tracks reflect the cover image and have a watery theme - both Freak of physics and Pulsar 2 have a dolphin or whale like sonar sweeping through with undertows of humming ambience. Another group suggest site recordings: wind blowing on a microphone in a storm (Class conflict 2) with a high cycling, a wind swept building softly shudders in Shuffle drone and rain over a melody is The ocean inside. Roww has a voice-processed-ish rhythm with rachets and tones and a Tuvan-ishh growl offers Mild alarm with a swirling wind over. The other three tracks - Class conflict, Mild alarm 2 and Revving - are all a bit more edgy with high tones, buzz saws or drones. So again a fine range of styles across this and slightly more available.

To be honest, neither is dramatically diffrent from releases that can be garnered from the web - but these are quality recordings at high fidelity
. And worth having.

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