Appreciating the sounds of Six Modular Pieces requires a type of patient listening more suited to those who enjoy ethnic or world music. In a majority of “eastern” stylings, the “song” moves at an almost languid pace, individual notes take on an added importance, and the piece doesn’t move in a discernable direction until several minutes have passed. Nevertheless, the subsequent mood generated by the music is designed as a springboard for creative thought and, hopefully — like the most effective film, novel or song — the journey will be different with each listening.
In combining this musical philosophy with the use of synths, samplers and guitars, Exeter-based (UK) Appliance has followed the sonic tradition of their trance-inducing brethren Kraftwerk, Neu, and, more recently, Spiritualized, 2 Lone Swordsmen and Boards of Canada. However, Appliance separates themselves from their contemporaries by completing their droning, atmospheric journeys in a span of three to seven minutes, and, more importantly, no hallucinogens are necessary to participate in the excursion. While vocalist James Brooks sounds as though he is no stranger to the visual wonders of mescaline, his voice functions merely as another effective instrument in the mixone that doesn’t require an altered state to value.
In order to test the above assertion — that Appliance utilizes an eastern approach to music which can be enjoyed without drugs — take Six Modular Pieces into your car, find an unfamiliar stretch of highway at dawn, and listen intently to the CD at a volume loud enough to blot out the wind of the road and the hum of the engine. If by the third track, “Derailleur, King of the Mountain,” you find yourself enraptured by the streams of sunlight flickering through the passing trees instead of waving your arms above the steering wheel in drum set pantomime, Appliance will have passed the test.