Somnambule - Writing About Music

Monolight ~ Free Music

‘Duo Abstractions 2’ (track two) at times sounds like milk bottles repeatedly scattering on a garden path. Haloes and Starburst (track four) is beautiful: it makes me think of a small, inquisitive lifeform that keeps on popping into my line of sight and then away again. Duo Abstractions 3 (track eight) is more troubling: it sounds like an idiotvoice worrying anxiously at me, demanding something that I’m unable to give (as the pitch of the ‘voice’ drops I feel pathos crowding in on me). ‘Free Music’ ends with deep stretching sounds, almost-aches; after a while percussive tip-tapping starts up and just as the music seems to be heading off in a new direction it abruptly stops (the first time, I thought the batteries on my discman had been suddenly exhausted).

The track titles are painterly. The cd comes with one of Rune Grammofon’s trademark gorgeous sleeves courtesy of Kim Hiorthoy: occasional squiggles and unidentifiable gestural shapes in bold, flat colours on a cream background. Coming on like an outsider-art Cy Twombly.

Here’s the connection for me: I started this review describing the music in terms of associations, evokings - in the same way I might free associate to a painting by Twombly or Pollock or Gorky – and Monolight’s music is like that: in fact it straddles a divide between music and sound. ‘Free Music’ sounds like free improv played on analogue synthesizers then post produced and sculpted… or… it sounds like early sentience in the circuits (some of the sounds made me think my headphones were distorting – electrical rebellion?). Unless you know something about Monolight or have some inside information (perhaps a reviewer’s cribsheet?), it’s difficult to tell how this music was created, but I’ll place my bets on one of those two possibilities.

Two reference points? Autechre’s Confield and Tetsu Inoue’s Psycho-Acoustic, but (apart from anything else) more personal, animate, graphic than either.
Colin Buttimer
April 2002
Published by the BBC