American musician, DJ and visual artist Alex Gray has in the past recorded music as part of Sun Araw and under the alias Deep Magic. Nothing can quite prepare you for his D/P/I project, though. Running along and down the record’s spine are a series of shapeshifting rhythms that are at once psychotic and yet stable, progressing speedily second by second, contorting themselves as they shed old skin. The rhythms change so much that, by the end, only their eyes are recognizable. With unknowable intentions, multiple rhythms converge, react and then dissipate, but they do more than that; they’re usually torn apart in an instant, shooting off in a thousand directions, and they have no control over it. The COMPOSER is controlling them.
Slight variations are enough to completely turn the rhythm on its head, shifting 360 degrees while the notes shift and stutter. It’s not only the sound of an urgent, colossal hard-drive failure as it edges closer to bankruptcy but a national security threat, a system on the precipice of overloading. The music chews on and then swallows the notes, ingesting the track with its monstrous appetite. On ‘Semantics’, the notes zap the other approaching rhythms with a pinpoint accuracy, shooting lasers out of ray-guns as waves of vanquished enemies crash and burn. The sound is like that of a retro video game played at the local arcade. COMPOSER is a high-scoring record, and while rhythms can have limitations (especially when you place them in a strict block of four, glue them to bars of music or chain them to a time signature), there’s no kind of roadblock here. It’s a very playful record; a revolution more than an evolution.
As the rhythm progresses, it naturally develops until it’s pretty far removed from what it started out as; it’s grown up and matured, but it still keeps its playful side. Although not every adult is a mature adult, this one has bags of life experience. The rhythms revel in the energy of the present, picking up an increasing sense of momentum from their continuation and development. ‘Ecstatics’ introduces a chopped vocal that lends the track even more of a boost, but there are still some lost rhythms at play here, washing up against the shore of the music and leaving only the dregs of the sea behind. Like loose sediment the rhythms are scattered, displaced by the frenzied pace. As the track climaxes, they suffer from fatigue. Tonal tendrils sit sloppily against the side of the music as the track fades out.
The unpredictable notes perforate the body of the rhythm. Many parts are connected to this body, this machine, and the disruption causes the rest of the body to change with it. Insect-like buzzes, clicks and chirps permeate the music. Scurrying tones fall over one another and glitch around in a honeycombed network of a nest. At times, COMPOSER has some African elements to its rhythmic advancement. The notes are also capable of slowing down and developing a stable rhythm, but it only takes a single note to throw everything off; as a butterfly spreads her wings in Brazil, it sets off a cascade of atmospheric events which results in a hurricane sweeping through New Mexico. It’s a prime example of cause and effect. An entirely new pattern is created as a result. At other times, the rhythms crackle and splutter, exploding with the brute force of an improvised explosive device; the music’s a monstrous minefield, with rhythms lying stealth-like under the dusty ground.
Sometimes the rhythms resemble the tapping sound of popcorn in the microwave, but the dynamics can increase until it resembles a barrage of artillery fire that leaves a soldier permanently shell-shocked. The explosions send the soil flying upwards, leaving an open wound and a yawning crater in the pockmarked crevices of permanently scarred ground. That’s what COMPOSER has the ability to do, and it does it well.