Steme deflects that trusted medium, the CD, from its role and providence as mere recording device. Rather than act as a mirror reflecting the artists work, it here seems touched with a more malefic spirit: the CD on to which Erik M transfered ten one minute long sound pieces is already itself damaged, and thus it plays an active role in the course of the proceedings. Much as a virus seems to show the first palpitations of life in a computer, so these defects in the compact-disc turn it into more of a subject than object; its truth, rather than exact and neutral, is negative and transgressive; and, ultimately, the album expresses the splendor and triumph of the medium as much as that of the aesthetic order.
If Erik has, at least up to a point, been expelled from the proceedings - the adopted process being essentially a sort of abreaction to self - then the object (CD), removed from the deadening effect of everyday banalities, still ticks away; and, similarly, insofar as some of music's energy has been quelled by routine programming and anticipation, then its step seems quickened, if only a little, by the (non)musical presentations on display here.
The album does little if not confounds expectation. And not only for what it's not, but also for what it is most plainly. With the odd exception, the sound pieces are ruled by a certain sense of space, freedom, and clarity. In most selections, there is a dialectic between steely metric objectivity and delicious sonic coloration's. The tintinnabulation and tastily abraded sonics at times even attain a weird sensual glow, while at others, all things being considered, they verge on being playful. One can fault the album only insofar as, at certain points, Erik overplays his hand a tad and sins against his own concept: his subsequent real-time manipulation of the sounds after their transfer onto disc pushes certain pieces into the realm of machine gyrations and bright shiny plastic things - in other words, more or less basic glitch fare.
All of this leads up to "White Out", a twenty-two minute composition that is more drone-like in nature. In stark contrast to the rest of the disc, it's a wave of high frequency tones frozen at the point of breaking. As odd fluctuating details soar and fall like a seagull in a storm, the piece reveals a hint of something mesmeric and haunting. And through all of this taken together Erik M is seen as an experimental artist of the highest caliber. His work in Steme showcases the object or medium as capable of taking into itself the same rock pool of mysteriousness, strangeness, and enchantment that has before been found elsewhere.
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