Rashad Becker


Traditional Music of Notional Species Volume 1

There are voices in there.

Spun microphones / clouds of insects / voices wrenched from shamanic throats /cabaret drum rolls / drowned brass sections. Mosquito trombones / cooing pigeon bubbling / depth charge timpanis buried.

These sounds do not refer to these sounds.

These sounds are moving from the front of my ears to the back of my head. From proximal intimacy to semi-described non-places. These sounds are simultaneously slow and fast – pointillist meets textural. These sounds are rough and smooth – rounded electronic tones cutting through swirls of static clouds. The repetitions here are gentle, sedately paced, but insistent – they have momentum. These circuits are autonomous, self regulating and tightly composed. These chants, dances, themes, that never outstay their welcome, are perfectly formed microworlds.

Rashad Becker’s debut album is mysterious and straightforward.

It is upfront in wanting to take a non-referential position to sound sources, while concurrently pointing to traditions outside western harmonic structures. As such, it literally synthesises outside influences and internal ‘from first principals’ sound objects. It does point unavoidably to say, musique concrète or at a pinch David Tudor, but its mastery of its own formal challenges – microworlds, development of non-referring themes, perfectly balanced frequency content – is absolute.

Using words to describe something that wants to fold in on itself, to almost disappear, seems close to futile, so we can only point to what these sounds point us towards. So:

The second side, Themes, seems immediately more tonal, though with the edges of these tones bleeding into bell-like buzzes of distortion, this still presents a complex field to unpick. What is compelling here is how the accumulated texture retains clarity as the layers progress. There is a depth of tone and frequency separation that feels warm. And that is one of the many strengths of both sides – while there are touches of bass pressure or almost acidic squelches that give it an oblique nod to techno or dub – the warmth of all the sounds here give it an ‘inside out’ feel.

Traditional Music of Notional Species is meditative and humorous – its feedback matrices spiralling inwards rather than outwards; its pings, sweeps and slides mean it is never dry or academic. It ends, appropriately, with what could almost be the sound of a tape player spluttering in its demise.

This is a thoughtful, playful record that gently demands your attention, and which rewards close listening with riches. Highly recommended!

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