THE DURUTTI COLUMN- SONG FOR SUMMER THE RETURN OF THE DURUTTI COLUMN (FACTORY, 1979)
Discovering this a few days ago was one of those moments as a listener when everything unfolding before you is so deeply aligned with what you want from music that its connection registers as nearly unreal.
“In 1957 a 30-year-old engineer named Max Mathews got an I.B.M. 704 mainframe computer at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, N. J., to generate 17 seconds of music, then recorded the result for posterity. While not the first person to make sound with a computer, Max was the first one to do so with a replicable combination of hardware and software that allowed the user to specify what tones he wanted to hear. This piece of music, called “The Silver Scale” and composed by a colleague at Bell Labs named Newman Guttman, was never intended to be a masterpiece. It was a proof-of-concept, and it laid the groundwork for a revolutionary advancement in music, the reverberations of which are felt everywhere today…”
I have been meaning to post this deeply felt tribute to Max Matthews for over a month now. I am embarrassed to say I knew nothing of Matthews, who died in April, until I came across Luke DuBois’ lengthy piece on the Times site evaluating his legacy. The innovations in programming language and electronic music he was instrumental in ushering forth make me realize how grateful I should be to take so much for granted. Matthews was, among other things, a mentor to Laurie Spiegel, the namesake of the Max MSP software, and the creator (with colleagues) of the voice synthesis of “Bicycle Built for Two” that was immortalized in 2001: A Space Odyssey:
VDSQ- Solo Acoustic Volume Four (VDSQ, 2011) A Sort of Radiance (Spectrum Spools, 2011)
Streaming above is an excerpt of “Once Was Is Now Again (Part I)”.
Just wanted to make brief note of someone who’s having a hell of a year with two widely divergent but equally successful LPs. Matthew Mullane’s work prior to these albums was mostly confined to web labels, two cassettes, and a stray CD of field recordings. This past February, though, a breathtaking installment of Vin du Select Qualitite’s Solo Acoustic series was released featuring Mullane’s liquid, extended work— a delightful surprise to most, I would imagine, including the label. (The label first heard these songs as an unsolicited demo.)
The specter that hangs over instrumental acoustic guitar always seems to be John Fahey’s, either because he’s the most familiar reference point or because his impact was just that large. Either way, I’d say that Mullane’s working a different set of influences—this is pure guesswork on my part, but there’s a very natural marriage of Robbie Basho’s raga workouts and the more concise, formal figures of someone like William Ackerman. The two part “Once Was Is Once Again” suggests such a nod to the past in its title as Mullane cycles through a series of melodic, emotional figures, slowing things down at times to let each note hang in the air while ecstatically dervishing at others. The brief coda of “A Second Choir” brings things to a close and it’s hard not to think that you’ve been witness to something remarkable.
The following month, Mullane released A Sort of Radiance, which is not only his debut LP under the name Fabric, but also the initial offering of John Elliott’s new Spectrum Spools label. The use of a pseudonym here makes sense, as this album is entirely devoid of guitar, instead utilizing a battery of synthesizers and sequencers to create a buzzing soundworld that is alternately brooding and vulnerable. This style of music is a little more in vogue, and sure, it certainly has a searching quality similar to that of Oneohtrix Point Never or Tangerine Dream. What’s immediately evident, though, is that A Sort of Radiance is a focused statement, very much assured in its sense of pace, dynamics, and melody. These three tracks below (“Left,” “Containers,” and “Light Float”), which appear in sequence, should support that idea:
I suppose that time will tell where Mullane goes from here—could he end up being a genre-hopper on the level of Jim O’Rourke?—but these two albums suggest a tremendous amount of promise.