You know how it is: you hold down that fast-forward button on your CD player and you hear bits and blips of the song flash by you like scenery from a train window. As scattered as it may be, you sometimes hear a few brief seconds of melodic glory that you wouldn’t discover by any other means.
Welcome to the world of glitch.
Though not exactly storming the pop charts, this IDM subgenre has been around for a while, heralded by the likes of Mouse nn Mars and especially Oval, whose 94 Diskont is the greatest glitch album ever made: turning and spinning gears of CD skips lapping and overlapping each other to create an ambient masterpiece. It’s not erratic bits of static colliding My Bloody Valentine-style—it’s cut-and-paste selections from organs, bells, xylophones, and other instruments mixed and mashed in a way that’s impossible to replicate live.
While the young Takuma Itoi hasn’t matched Oval’s level of multi-layered skip-filled chaos, he knows that he doesn’t have to in order to get the same effect. Much like hearing Springsteen play with the entire E Street Band versus hearing him do a solo acoustic set, it’s the (relatively) same message done in different styles. You might get more bang for your buck by hearing Little Steven’s guitar wails along with all your other favorite E members, but stripped down can be far more intimate and moving.
Quietude, Itoi’s debut album, very much lives up to its title. While beauty sometimes comes from chaos, Itoi knows that same effect can be achieved with a subtle pause. Perhaps one of the best examples of this (and a great introduction to glitch altogether) is “On the Wind”—a small piece that uses only a sparse organ tone to establish mood, with fluttery synths moving in and out like birds at a summer pond. Yet at the six-minute mark, Takuma goes for catharsis, upping the emotional stakes and hitting a near-cinematic tone, before receding back into the regular pattern—it’s a masterful effect.
While tracks like “The Third Person” and “Waltz” eerily recall Fridge and early Four Tet, they sometimes serve as nothing more than forays into glitch—not emotional masterpieces. Certainly, having pretty background/thinking/study music is nice, but you can pick up an album of beach wave sounds for a few bucks cheaper at the store. But the album is never boring—there are just certain stretches that turn out to be merely “pleasant.” Also, unlike Oval’s Markus Popp, he knows a good deal about music economy: instead of eating up a full disc, Itoi’s LP covers a mere 40 minutes.
Yet, as with the case of any hopeful LP, there is one flat-out masterpiece contained within: the four-minute “Microbe”. Layers of building happy three-note keyboards gradually build and rise on each other, each layer adding a new element while the older layers click along happily, all building up a pleasant, twisting, and vaguely danceable beat-line (emphasis on “vaguely”). Itoi trained in playing classical piano for 12 years of his life—his perchant for melody is acute and well-rounded. If anyone could ever push glitch into the mainstream, this just might be the guy to do it.
Though little seen, the Gregg Araki film Mysterious Skin had a non-glitch but very similarly styled soundtrack by Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd, using almost nothing but synth washes to bring in themes of hope, fear, and love. Though his focus is still a bit in the blurry, Takuma Itoi is well-headed in that same direction—perhaps he will be the soundtrack to your day… or just maybe he’ll become bigger than Oval.
// Notes from the Road
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