Robert Buchanan, robertbuchanan (mp3.com, 2000)
[originally posted 19Jun2000]
A new take on the eponymously-titled album from the Amish-country master of sound collage, Robert Buchanan. If Peter Gabriel had thought of this, the first five years of his solo output wouldn’t be so bloody confusing.
Six bucks, six tracks, relatively short avant-garde offering here. Buchanan builds his stuff with layer upon layer upon layer of other source material until it is rendered unrecognizable, and then chops, blends, purees, liquefies, and every other setting on the blender to come up with something new. Despite the way that sounds, this isn’t an album full of harsh, chaotic, half-recognizable samples, like Zipperspy or Jazzkammer; everything here is far too well-mixed for that, and the resultant effect is far more minimal. Rhythm finds its way in in places, in nontraditional ways, and high-pitched tones wander in and out like a crowdmember at a noise show who keeps heading back to the bar to refill his (insanely small and overly expensive) glass, but the real basis of the album is the solid, low, almost drone-like rumble that pervades these six pieces.
“nothing” starts the album off with a really low-key rumble, synth hum above it, then an odd, looped, dopplered metal-on-metal rhythm line that I swear I’ve heard before (though maybe it’s just from listening to this so much). This probably sounds more like the early, great, all-metal early Einsturzende Neubauten releases than anything that’s been released since the members of Einsturzende Neubauten started playing regular instruments. Gets louder. And louder. And louder. And then… “breakupbreakdown,” and if inclusion on mp3.com radio stations is any indication this track is one of the most popular on the planet. Heavy beat that shifts back and forth almost constantly, making it not a dance track (too complex, and random, spacey layers of ground-down noise over top… it’s actually a lot smoother than I’m making it sound, and catchy enough, but you’re not going to be dancing to this. “killpop” comes next, and this actually sounds like the description I have of “breakupbreakdown” above… sounds as if a cat is running over a keyboard and getting scared by something at either end and so he keeps turning around over and over again, while Buchanan bangs on pots and pans and feeds the whole mess through a bunch of filters. Needless to say this is an important piece of work, and if Karl Stockhausen had recorded it he’d snatch up the copyright, issue the vinyl himself, and charge $60 for it. On to “insomnia,” a heavy, solemn beat, actually recognizable vocal samples (albeit backwards), and very minimal… is that an organ? Like, a real organ? This one’s got some novelty value, but could do with better mixing… the organ’s too far down to keep the listener’s interest and the beat is too repetitive… is about a minute longer than it needs to be. Next, “embrace,” another very, very low key track, rhythmic synth line looped… shorter than “insomnia” and thus doesn’t cause the listener to lose interest. Closes out with “coldcomfort,” and I suggest you turn your speakers down, WAY down, between these two, because this one is LOUD. The cat’s playing with the keyboard again, but this time it’s meshed in a haze of loud noise that sounds like three milk bottles rolling around in the bottom of a bucket, fed through a microhpone with a random variety of distortion, delay, and noisegate pedals at random settings. An interesting way to end an album that’s otherwise overall pretty minimal… just keeping you on your toes.
Definitely worth the six bucks. More, even. (Don’t take that as free rein to raise your prices, pal.) ***