Somnambule - Writing About Music

Nonplace Difficult Easy Listening

How many oxymorons can you fit into a title? Two in four words isn’t a bad start and it’s as good a description as any of the output of Burnt Friedman’s Nonplace label. This 14 track, 53 minute compilation presents music by Friedman in various guises and collaborations together with tracks by Beige, Swaai, Lycheelassi, Replicant Rumba Rockers and Suaai. How many of these are pseudonyms for Burnt Friedman himself is impossible to tell, though suspicions are raised by the stylistic similarity of both the names and the music itself, which doesn’t stray far from a common sound. This Nonplace sound playfully blends electronic and real instrumentation together. It also successfully refocuses electronica’s energies away from incestuous navel-gazing and onto the world around it, as embodied by interactions with dub, samba, etc. Relevant keywords would be: mischevious, sunny, (anti-)intellectual. Irrelevant ones: parodic, caricature, insincere. Friedman’s profile may have dipped a little since his initial work with Atom Heart as Flanger, but this compilation conveys a sense of his gradually slipping behind the scenes, taking over the lighting, curtains and scenery, while ensuring the actors (or his independent co-conspirators) enrich their parts with at least the spirit of the Nonplace enterprise. There’s a sense of the outernational here, as if an alien were building a prototype more representative of the world’s music than the western one that dominates Western airwaves. Does it matter whether this compilation is the work of one or many? Not at all, in fact it’s just as likely to keep the listener on her toes by adding a welcome further layer of complexity to an already enjoyable enterprise. In this way Nonplace Difficult Easy Listening is reminiscent of Spike Jonze’s Adaptation, a film which allows the viewer to engage at any level, from the straightforwardly emotional to the almost tortuously postmodern.
Colin Buttimer
November 2004
Published by Grooves magazine