Aeroc: Viscous Solids

Tim O'Neil


Viscous Solids

Label: Ghostly International
US Release Date: 2004-05-18
UK Release Date: Available as import

Viscous Solids begins with the slowly rising sound of an altered acoustic guitar. The chords have been warped and elongated, evaporated almost to the point of intangibility. This is how sound functions in Aeroc's world: delicately and very sedately.

For myself and many others Ghostly International Records first hit the map earlier this year with the release of Matthew Dear's Leave Luck to Heaven. Considering that electronic music has been at best ignored, and at worst belittled by the mainstream music press since approximately the summer of 1999, it was quite unusual to see Leave Luck to Heaven receive plaudits from such substantial outlets as Rolling Stone magazine. Based on this pedigree, I was intrigued to see what else Ghostly had up their collective sleeves.

If there's any unifying theme to link Viscous Solids with Leave Luck to Heaven, it would have to be the crisp and controlled nature of the programming, an overarching sense of discipline and economy that permeates both albums. You could probably guess as much about the label from their logo, an image of a two-eyed ghost illustrated in as simple a manner as possible. Simplicity and understatement are the orders of the day.

But simplicity does not necessarily translate to simple-mindedness. Geoff White, the mastermind behind Aeroc, has obviously worked very hard to create a deeply satisfying work of sonic restraint, an album that flirts with abstract ambient but ultimately chooses to walk the more difficult path between the ethereal and the concrete.

The entire album was composed of samples taken from White's guitar playing. Every beat, every bassline, and every wafting synth line was apparently constructed from these meager sonic resources. It says a lot for White's ingenuity as a musician in specific, and about the elasticity of sound in 2004 in general, that such a rich and emotive work could come from such a seemingly limiting technical exercise. Albums like Viscous Solids point to a perpetually dawning future wherein sound will be mined in its raw, unrefined state, and musicians will be able to create music in the manner of sculptors, shorn from the limitations of physical performance and limited only by the limitless imagination of the composer.

But we're not there yet. Aeroc is a skilled composer but, as with Dear, he is also just too refined for his own good. Restraint can be an admirable quality in a prodigiously talented musician, but it can also be a frustrating quality in a composer of moderate or mediocre talent. Oftentimes throughout the course of Viscous Solids you find yourself wishing that the ethereal would cohere, to build into something greater than merely the sum of its many beautiful parts, but except for scattered flashes of brilliance the album never actually condenses into a magnificent whole.

The first track on the album, "My Love, The Wave Break", is a perfect example of this frustrating dynamic at work. The design of the track is exemplary, featuring a series of slowly cascading melody lines swaying behind a shuffling beat. But the multiple elements never build into anything greater than the mere fact of their verisimilitude: pleasant things happen in nicely balanced precision for almost five minutes but in the end the track fails to build to a significant climax, merely ebbing away into an ambient lull.

This ambient lull gives way to another track, "Mahy", again built around the dichotomy between a mellow rhythm section and a series of mutated melody lines. "Mahy" is a more satisfying track than "My Love, The Wave Break", and it builds to a slightly more satisfying climax, but it still lacks a certain element of compulsion.

"Wish Eyes" is a break from the first two major tracks, as it builds more directly on the ambient lull that precedes it, pulling a satisfyingly somber breakbeat pattern out of the primordial soup. "Rusted Dress Up" combines the dark rhythm of "Wish Eyes" with the more studied melodic composition of the album's early tracks, and also manages to interject the only moments of slight funk into an otherwise very somber project.

The album's best track is also its last, "Summer's Almost Over". On an album defined by its pleasant restraint, it comes the closest to expressing something more insistent, of building into something greater than the sum of its parts. There's actual tension between the various coruscating guitar samples, as the repetitive melodies become indistinguishable from the rhythm and the track builds to a sublime -- if sublimely understated -- climax.

I would predict a bright future for Aeroc. He's certainly got the talent, based on the evidence of Viscous Solids, but I sincerely hope that he manages to inject more passion, more urgency into his future work. What we have here is an album that straddles the fine line between musical virtuosity and bloodless dilettantism, a work of subtle charms and great promise -- but this promise remains fraught with the equally great peril of potential irrelevancy.





'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.


Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.