Somnambule - Writing About Music

Tu m’ ~ Pop Involved

Tu m’ are an Italian duo who take their moniker from Duchamp’s final painting which depicts amongst other things, a pointing finger and a bicycle wheel. The image’s Dadaist humorousness finds its analogue in the work of Tu m’. Wake Up unites plucked acoustic guitar with gurgling electronics into a busy current of music which it’s possible to either be pulled along by or perhaps electrocuted. The guitar and what sounds like a wheezy harmonium played backwards contribute to an impression of technologised folk which makes surprisingly engaging sense. What? sounds like Trumpton’s factory is working overtime and not being very happy about it at all. In fact it seems that the production line keeps tripping over itself and threatening to break down. It’s abrasive and higgledy-piggledy and not something to be put on as background music: like a few other tracks here, if such a listening mode is attempted a headache may be the unwelcome result. The End Of Summer is warm and slithery, borne on slurred drums and elastic pings (perhaps the sound of tent pegs pounded by rubber mallets?) It’s nostalgic and entirely appropriately titled. Something Sweet In The Coffee reprises the acoustic guitar and mixes it with needlesharp percussion and a sawing viola, or similar. The outcome is reflective, slightly trippy and carries an undertow of unease –cyanide doesn’t taste sweet, but something of its ilk surely does. Plum Cake continues the practice of enjoyably domesticated titles (a relief after far too many sub-Autechre namings by other groups), but doesn’t live up to its name - unless that’s the sound of beetle mandibles chomping on said cake. What Time Is It is all brightly-lit pink perspex, like the innards of a Barbie Swatch watch keeping imperfect time. Humans’ Voices is peopled by a husky vocoder serenaded by a chilly descending line. The album closes with the burbling warmth of Mezzo Forte whose instruction is adhered to for all of half a minute before it’s swamped by noisy humming - one last interjection of humour.

A constant throughout Pop Involved is a sense of mischievious playfulness, a cheeky, likeable humanity – titles such as Our Stupid Computer and I Can’t Get Started underline this observation. Pop Involved is highly recommended for fans of the interaction of dysfunctional electronica and acoustic instrumentation – the first fellow practitioner which springs to mind? Matmos.

Pop Involved is the second release on Irish electronica label Fällt’s Ferric series. Discs on this series are available as burn to order items and housed in DVD-sized jewel cases which are twice the size of standard CD cases. The case contains a single liner card without a spine to enable identification when shelved. The lower third of the front displays an individually blanked edition number. There’s clearly an ethos to the standardisation of this packaging (perhaps a pecuniary one) though it’s not explained on Fällt’s website. Although the punchcard design initially assserts that this is a unique release (each allocated a different number), one probably unintended association is the imposed uniformity of clocking in at the factory. In fact Fällt’s website indicates that the inspiration for this design is the IBM card used for data processing by early mainframe computers. Unfortunately this standardised design approach has a slightly anonymising effect which the music has to battle a little to shrug off (which it does successfully do). Interestingly, such a presentation begs the question whether music is freed or impoverished when it’s removed from the design metadata which normally accompanies it. With the success of the iPod, the iTunes music store and its competitors, the near future will be an interesting time to observe whether people will be happy to trade the abandonment of music’s visual trappings in exchange for reduced cost and ease of use via wireless networks and on-demand downloads. Put simply, on the one hand it may be argued that an mp3 music file offers the chance to enjoy music unalloyed and untainted by designers’ visual interpretations, while on the other this can be viewed as an impoverishment of an experience which at its best approached something of a democratic gesamtkunstwerk.

The Ferric Series appears to be an attempt on the part of Fällt to maintain the viability of physical product, but it may also be seen - by its standardised packaging - as a victim of changing consumption patterns. The label is actively exploring the options which digital media are making available and sells some of its releases as standard cds as well making curated series of mp3s available for free download from its website ( This responsiveness, together with its roster of artists, makes it a label to watch.

Colin Buttimer
August 2004
Published by Milkfactory