Despite the resurgence of "hardware (i.e. modular synths and effects boards) is sexy," some still take advantage of the portability, value and endless possibilities of the laptop as instrument. With that abyss of freedom, your average bear can create a mess of noise without really trying (both happy and unhappy accidents). David Lynch wrote, "Mystery is good, chaos is bad, and there's a big difference between the two." I would add that it takes a lot of broken eggs and woodshedding to understand the characteristics of these two concepts. And that's where Ease comes in...
With the ten-year plus project of Ease, Klaus Filip and Noid (née Arnold Harbel), both on laptop using their self-invented, open source ppooll system of Max/MSP patches, fully integrate into a tapestry of like-minded aesthetics and coalescing opinions. This doesn't mean that Filip and Noid are musical twins, as each has a special focus: Noid prefers (subtle) sound mangling, Filip adheres to generated synthetics.
For 55 minutes, Filip and Noid engage in what some may see as mediation, while others experience tension over the long suspended blocks that barely morph before dying out. The duo begins with a high frequency (you guessed it) sine wave and nervous rhythmic clicks. A looping puff of air being gently pitch-shifted joins the fray as the previous material fades. Different versions of dense, throbbing clouds and barely audible hums slowly flutter across the stereo field before a "ding" resembling what you hear to indicate "please put your seats in the upright position' snaps the trance. There are points when the audio is so faint that, even while wearing headphones, the motion of a heater kicking on, or a computer fan whirl, or a rumbling stomach can overtake your ears (frankly, this external source material seems in place with what is happening on No No No, No). One particularly intimate four-minute hush ends with faint digital cicadas and a static wind-like gesture with no seam. Soon everything latches hands to form a cluster, and Filip sporadically drops in a few notes that almost resemble a melody.
One of the most striking things about No No No, No is the sleight of hand concerning background and foreground. Due to the mix, psychoacoustics, phasing and orchestration, the duo often shines a flashlight, so to speak, on certain timbral areas; however each subsequent listen can be a different experience when focusing on another simultaneous sound in the vertical slice. After doing this a few times you realize how complicated this seemingly simple palette is.
Notwithstanding over twenty years of experience, a blurb on Filip's biography reads "Steady dispute with the computer as a musical instrument." With such a virtuosic hold on what they do on No No No, No, I hope Noid and Filip never stop quarreling with their work.
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