I don’t give star ratings to review items for PopMatters, but if I did Midnight Sound would be docked at least one for the snottiest liner and press notes I have ever seen. “Midnight Sound ignores all the stylistic pigeonholes that critics so love squeezing music into,” they sniff, “Flanger has set free savagely condensed surprise elements, probably five years too early.” This is what you call your attempt at a preemptive strike—if you don’t like the music, you’re just trying to pigeonhole them, and they’re ahead of their time. It makes me want to quote Mick Jones, who knows something about mixing humanity with special FX in music:
“I don’t care what key its in
Where its come from
Where it’s been
Just play that music.
You don’t have to be profound
In fact, don’t speak, just play that sound.”
“Atom Heart” and “Burnt” Friedman, the duo who are Flanger, perceive of themselves as playing jazz on this album. But if they are it’s the kind of jazz played for other musicians, not for people. Which can be fine in jazz when played by virtuosos, but Flanger sound like a couple of guys hitting keys in a bedroom. They also believe they’re bringing humanity to synths, from where I’m sitting that was done about 18 years ago for anyone who was paying attention.
Part of the problem here is that it’s music that seems to think too much of itself; this is arrogant music by people who think electronic music is still novelty enough in and of itself to be worthy for it’s own sake. But it isn’t. The time is long past when weird sounds were enough, you must do something with them. Like, say, write a song. But the midnight sound, or so it seems, is comprised of sometimes childlike musical lines played on keyboards and vibraphone with breakbeats, samples and loops. It’s nothing particularly new at the start of the new century. There just ain’t no groove here, no ass to anchor as the mind sails away. And in the case of Flanger, it’s not going anywhere fresh.