The dream state is a recurring theme in electronic music; now nebulo has taken a stab at it. His last double album (Castles/Basements), which was released just last year, makes him an unlikely candidate for this style – but he quite masterfully puts his own mark on the form. His new album “Akzidens” will be released on October 20th on French label Stomoxine records, after a long row of releases on Hymen. All material is sourced from cassette tapes, and the physical release comes as a 75 copy limited edition cassette tape: “a cassette of cassettes” [Press Text]
To reference a strong, tape-purist hub of what I would call “dream state music”, one can draw up a short, non-exhaustive list of Opal Tape releases: S. Olbricht (Deutsch Amerikanische Tragödie), Karen Gwyer (Kiki the Wormhole), or Huerco S. (Untitled). All evoke a loopiness, haziness, and entrancing disorientation typically associated with half-wake, half-asleep moments. All have their very distinct style. This is the – admittedly personal and biased – perspective from which I must approach “Akzidens”, as an addition to a larger, highly valued set of dream state music. The dream state quality seems to come from fundamental composition and gear decisions. Hungarian S Olbricht from Farbwechsel background comes from a synth and gear-driven corner, where the simple noisiness and age of hardware adds a nostalgic, hazy layer to productions. Karen Gwyer mentions extensive layering as one of her main approaches, which are reinforced by receptive, ebbing and surging dynamics. For Huerco S. the laptop is a main instrument, meaning that compressors, side-chaining and specific production style make for his own grainy-haze flavour of electronic music.
Regarding his last release “Castles/Basements”, nebulo comes from an entirely different corner. Dry and explicit synth lines, precisely aimed and thinly applied layers of noise, intricately structured micro beat patterns, a general sense of determinism and sparsity. This very sense of production makes “Akzidens” worth listening and exploring, and not simply another low-fi sampling mash-up. The one and a half minute opening track “Fake Cadillac” sets the tone – washed-out keys, inter-weaving sampling and re-composition, taunting unclarity where to place the line between audacious sample archaeology and precise digital creation of new patterns. And, a sense of brevity usually absent from this type of music. A befitting opener for the first side of the tape: a striking dialog between degraded though distinguishable source materials and the modern rhythmic and melodic structures they are built into. Negotiating the apparent contrast between past audio fragments and micro-structured contemporary composition is, in my opinion, the main contribution of this work and sets it apart from other tape-affine, dream state productions.
Here are two teaser tracks from the first side of the tape, “Cru” and “Rush”. On the full release, these are joined, for example, by more arcane-sounding drum circles on “Gove Me Live”, mashed into a retro-modern structure. [I had to replace the link, now here is the full album.]
The albums B side explores similar concepts, but after the tape’s side A the novelty wears off a bit. This is not necessarily a bad thing – especially for dream state music, in the long run you don’t want to hear parts and segments, but let the subconscious message of the music as a whole unfold. So, this feeling of the album’s B side actually makes perfect sense – the A side to establish the style, the B side to live in it, let it unfold and sink in. At first, the staccato-like flashes of “Dynasty Beef” (track B2) are a little irritating, but ultimately prepare for a very deep plunge into soulful, nostalgic sampling beauty.
The only things I cannot make sense of, really, are the press text and cover design. “The album defies aesthetics and styles, oscillating between magic juju, pre-Columbian catacombs speleology, feral polyrhythms, Orient-Occident romance, and humour-terrorism” – this makes me think I probably entirely misunderstood the thing. The album cover is a trichrome stencil cut of a simple image, which gives a flat and sloppy impression. In my opinion it does the layered, rich, and probably painstakingly crafted album no justice. Then again – the cover says: “Don’t take this too serious. I had fun making this. Don’t get all deep, just enjoy it!”
Order a copy at https://stomoxine.bandcamp.com/album/akzidens
Also, a very good music video for “Cru”: