Somnambule - Writing About Music

Battery Operated ~ Re: cord

Re: Cord is the musical and visual artefact of a project initiated by the somewhat mysterious Battery Operated. A compartmented metal box was sent to ten destinations around the world. Each of its recipients was requested to provide a sound, a video or image and a text relating to their own interpretation of a conspiracy theory. The contents were then used as source material to reconstruct a global conspiracy theory. Each of the 10 longer, self-penned tracks alternates with short pieces commissioned by Battery Operated from the box’s recipients, including the likes of Richard H. Kirk, Sachiko M. and Pretty Boy Crossover. The longest of these latter tracks lasts 41 seconds.

The opening Battery Operated track starts out sounding like a Mo’ Wax piece from one of that label’s downtempo Headz compilations. Perhaps it’s time for James Lavelle’s approach to be rehabilitated, though this reviewer won’t be racing to the cause: the headnodding tempos and self-conscious deliberation still fail to ignite my interest. That said, the remaining 18 tracks are more promising. Battery Operated’s tracks are rendered in a variety of electronic styles from metamorphosing breakbeats to the aforementioned downtempo. I Lost My International Hub is magisterial, swathed in rising chords and girded by aluminium pulses and synthetic shudders, while Uni Disdata floats on digital ripples that eddy ever outwards.

Accompanying the audio CD is a DVD containing project documentation which includes the Re: Cord website and the contributors’ images and video. These latter seem unfortunately rather perfunctory and ultimately appear rather superfluous to the endeavour. The conceptual proposition – the origination and organisation of conspiracy theories - is particularly germane given the current geopolitical situation. It’s difficult however to reconcile with the musical element of the project. Music’s virtual abstraction, its existence as a profligate parallel language mitigates against, or at least sits somewhat uneasily alongside these gestures. Having said that, the type of electronica explored here almost demands a paranoid response given both its proximity to the surveillance processes that are so utterly ubiquitous today and the anonymity engendered by the technologies used to create the music.
Colin Buttimer
September 2005
Published by the BBC