Somnambule - Writing About Music

battery operated ~ chases through non-place

2 cds: cd1 8 audio tracks, cd2 5 videos pc/mac(os9). Liner notes.

When I review a cd I try to listen with as much concentration as I can. I don’t scrutinise the cover or liner notes or track titles or record company pr material until after at least a couple of listens. I’m explaining this because the Battery Operated cd comes with fairly lengthy liner notes which establish a particular context somewhat different from the one I experienced initially. There’s also common ground though, more of which later.

All of the 8 tracks are called ‘Chase through’. ‘Chase through’ number one sounds like a large factory workfloor, perhaps one not on this planet - interesting how the more automated manufacturing becomes, the more frequently electronica appears to present the sounds of the factory for listening at leisure - the hammering of tools, the worrying of voices, the seething, sighing of breathing...

The second ‘Chase through’ comes on like the sound of air currents blowing through subspace engine cowling with the ultimate chill of vacuum metres away - at times I’m reminded of Rutger Hauer’s death speech in Bladerunner: “Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhaüser gate...”

By track three spacecraft are docking, things careening off each other (sounds that are at some distance from any televisual/filmic imaginings)… There are momentary voices, long decayed until they’re an integral part of the circuits, abstracted almost entirely out of humanity.

Jonathan Marshall’s liner notes explain that the group’s intent is to establish a discourse about contemporary ‘non places’, specifically the attempts made by the corporate world to normalise the experience of long distance travel from airport departure lounge to aeroplane cabin via muzak, standardisation, etc. Well I wasn’t that far off with subspace engine cowlings and vacuums, only a few miles at most... The second cd of video material does reinforce the text, but for me doesn’t do much to open up any new possibilities.

'chases through non-place’ occupies an almost environmental sonic area occasionally invaded by rhythms which seem to extrude themselves up out of deep sonic strata, at other times they appear like detritus sparked unwillingly into shortlived animation. If you like Oval, Autechre/Confield, Scanner, you may well enjoy this.
Colin Buttimer
November 2002
Published by the BBC