Most times we pop in CDs, we’re prepared to leave where we are for a while. That’s what music does—it helps us escape, to leave wherever we are and whatever we’re doing for a while. It’s an aural getaway to far-off destinations. But these places Marumari wants to take us, they’re not in most of the travel brochures.
If you had to put Marumari with a group of peers, he’d most likely fit with the unfortunately genrefied purveyors of organic-electronic bliss like Aphex Twin, Mu-Ziq, Autechre, Junior Varsity km and even Plaid. The atmospherics fit, but none of these peers match Marumari’s ability to give life to lifeless sounds and to make such digitally enhanced music sound so organic. That’s not to say he’s better than anyone in this group, but he’s certainly doing his own thing.
Put in Supermogadon, the fourth release from Rhode Island’s Josh Presseinen, and expect to see things with your ears that you don’t usually see: rolling dunes, arctic drifts, stalagmites, the ocean floor in deep water, the vacuum of space as it looks from the capsule of a rocket. They’re places that are foreign not only to our general patterns of civilization, but also to our laws of living. They have no air, or no gravity, or no form, or no heat, or no cold, or no light, or none of the above. The images come to us like fever dreams: edgeless environments that close in all around us while we’re too delirious to care. It’s how music sounds when you’re not listening, which Presseinen proves can be much better than when you are listening.
Supermogadon gets by on this kind of distance. You hear guitars, but only as if they were on the other side of a wall. You hear melodies, but only as if they were wind chimes on the front porch. You hear a bass line, but only as if it were an electric blanket when there’s a blizzard outside. This music isn’t a workout, it’s a massage.
And as barren and alien as it may sound, Supermogadon is nothing if not familiar. Right from the start—“Rocket Summer”, an ignition sequence that gives way to a slow-mo liftoff into super-deep end fuzz—the melodies sound like something you’ve heard before. On “Rocket Summer”, it could be a new wave song. On “Indigo Florist”, it could be a nursery rhyme, or maybe a teen ballad. On “The Mutated Wisdom”, it could be disco revival interpreted by a Casio keyboard. You never can tell because Presseinen has recreated them into something that only remotely resembles its source. It’s plastic music: use it, recycle it, use it again—it’s going to be different every time, but it’s always going to be plastic.
And like plastic, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any sharp edges. The low, middle and high ends of songs like “Red” blend seamlessly. The blissful hum of “Put Me in My Habitrail” plays off the loopy melody like a chorus with no voices over an organ with no pipes. Back on “Indigo Florist”, the same satin chorus intertwines with an actual voice that sounds as if it’s being muted by a hand over the speaker, and about halfway through the track it muffles into oblivion before the hand is removed and, for one of the only times on the album, there’s some distinction between sounds.
A friend once said about the musical juxtaposition of Mu-ziq, “This is what it sounds like inside my head”. It was a perfect description, one that accounted for the constant conflict of form and function that goes on behind the eyes. As for Marumari, Supermogadon doesn’t have those conflicts. It’s not quite as conscious an endeavor. In fact, it’s not conscious at all. Supermogadon is what it sounds like right before you fall asleep, when you’re so relaxed that you’re not sure what’s reality and what’s a dream—and the difference between the two doesn’t matter anyway.
// Notes from the Road
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