California’s noisy rhBand have claimed their goal is to pursue “ur-drone”—a sound approaching the apex of all drone—a mildly pretentious pursuit perhaps, but one that doesn’t nearly approach the stated goal of member Joe Bloggs on his LP, Music for Multiples. Bloggs states, “It’s most certainly about the process and the materials used in spontaneously capturing these events. A general regard for all things organic in design permeates the sound.” Fortunately once the listener is able to move past Bloggs’ coffeehouse/Art History 101 student/music critic-esque mumblings on philosophy, Music for Multiples is a genuinely gifted album.
Bloggs’ emphasis on using bowls, PVC pipes and randomly found objects to conjure sounds is as perplexing as it is addictive. “Cassette” is a crackling yet almost silent mess of sound, I presume the crackles emanate from the annoying, terribly difficult to unwrap plastics which enclose cassettes and CDs. “Untitled Piece for Bowls” is even more disturbingly vacant. If the volume were enhanced, the clutter were likely be unbearable but in its hushed state, the infusions of resonance of the bowls’s bell-like sounds are contemplative and masterly.
In Bloggs’ preface to the record he also admits that he is “most honored by one’s interest to simply listen” and on those grounds Music for Multiples has few shortcomings. The sounds Bloggs creates are so otherwordly, confusingly compelling and repulsive all at once that the LP demands repeated listens even when it proves mightily difficult. For example, “Close” is utterly terrorizing, so anxious and overbearing that it drives me away, beckons me to skip to the next track, yet here I am listening again in a vain attempt to figure out what the hell is going on. Then again, skipping ahead does little to decrease the anxiety, “Steppe (process)” is a sparse assemblage of overlapped clarinet, sax and trumpet, droning in repetition for almost nine-minutes, aggravating enough that the sound of a seventh-grade orchestra warming-up seems quite sweet by comparison.
Music for Multiples is by far one of the most challenging listens I’ve faced in recent memory. However, in moving past Bloggs’ notes to a focus on the sound—indeed, his remarks also state explicitly: “Sound is more important than words.”—I feel that my opinions of sound and aesthetics are works in progress just as are Bloggs’ compositions. On one listen, I might be pushed away by the flat tones of his clarinet while the next day, my mood will have shifted and the same sounds seem like the most adroit expressions.