Israel Quellet: Oppressum

Barry Lenser

Israel Quellet


Label: Sub Rosa
US Release Date: 2007-02-20
UK Release Date: 2007-03-12

Oppressum is rabidly, proudly, pretentiously, and maddeningly anti-pop. As a “noise” composition, this debut full-length from Swiss-born experimenter Israel Quellet indulges in all manner of harsh and atonal sounds borne of toys, gongs, metal buckets, and human voice distortion. To our commercial-oriented ears, what emerges from such non-convention is arrhythmic, amorphous meanderings. According to Quellet, he aimed for an aesthetic “not standardized or calibrated systematically,” meaning discord is not only the occasional outcome, but partially the objective. For all its self-seriousness and raving non-traditionalism, however, Oppressum is boringly simplistic and overworked at the same time and no more accomplished than even the most pat of Top 40 fare.

Quellets’s technique is anathema to coherence: disparate sounds piled on top of one another with an absent sense of proportion, tone, or a-to-b-to-c progression. He does not aspire to full-fledged pieces; his productions operate more as patchy compilations of details. “For Tank Strokes, Percussion, and Voice” (all the titles bear this banal absence of thought) plods with repetitious prison-door clanks and ghostly whispers but never truly unfurls to achieve a dark tone. It’s more vacant and sonically grueling than it is sinister. “For Percussion and Sound Toys” packs a greater level of detail via a soundscape drenched in toy duck calls. It’s livelier than most on Oppressum but still insistently annoying.

Without any intelligible lyrical content and adjoining subtexts, what such unadorned pieces should strive for is a sense of location and mood wherein human appeal may be found. Only two entries on Oppressum somewhat arrive at this: “For Tank Strokes and Percussion” and “For Buckets Dragged on the Ground and Saturation”, the former approximating a nightmarishly busted-up factory and the latter a warfare heard from within a bunker. Be noted: this pair of partial successes does not aurally please so much as conceptually cohere. That may be a stretch, but the vapidity of the remaining songs renders even the mildly scattered somewhat focused. So awkward, much of Oppressum could be plausibly mistaken for the sensation of vinyls being spun backwards. It’s the barest of insights to state that this collection is cut from an atypical music cloth. Quellet proudly trumpets his anti-pop stridency. It’s not only his album’s calling card but also its sole trick. Perhaps if the contents of Oppressum weren’t so jarringly uninspired, its unspoken credo wouldn’t seem like turgid provocation.


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