On Second Thought
Pete Namlook and Dandy Jack - Silent Music






for better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.

Perhaps the most amusing thing about this release is that it is one of my least favorite albums put out by the FAX label. And for an album that rates in the low-sixes, I would say the label puts out some fantastic releases. Silent Music is another in yet a long line of FAX collaborations, as well as another in the series of Namlook and Jack team-ups. Unfortunately, the results are decidedly mixed. Silent Music could be seen as a stylistic pastiche of the FAX catalogue, but for the most part none of the tracks on this album come close to being the best at imitating any one of the many styles present.

We start out with “Cosmic Nose”. Over the course of just over eight minutes, we are treated to ambience that basically goes nowhere. High frequency sweeps, an occasional melody that plays for only a few short bars, and some extremely minimal percussion primarily in the left channel carry the track through its duration. The track itself is not bad, it is just boring; something like this would have worked much better as a short introduction track. “Deep Influence”, track two, is perhaps the finest track on the album. What sets it apart from the rest of the album is that it is easy to tell that a lot of care and planning went into its making. Slowly building and ominous, it propels on for roughly ten minutes. Peculiar vocal samples (in a foreign language) surface throughout with lots of reverb; and they’re mixed just low enough so that it feels like a part of the music, coming up from underneath it. The main melody is constructed from some sort of string sample, but warped in such a way that one can barely tell they are strings. Yet, despite that it feels almost orchestral in nature.

“Blumenoid” is next and it is quite possibly the most tedious on the album. In the wrong mood, it can be one of the most irritating songs in existence. Basically, the song is a very simple keyboard line, flanged, and looped over the course of eight minutes with minor alterations here and there. Percussion is once again mixed low and in the left channel, and lots of spacey effects and strange “breathing” samples dress the track. It stands as an excursion into some of FAX’s more techno-oriented efforts with nowhere near the success of its peers.

From there, the album continues to switch back and forth between ambient and techno pieces. “Carmen” and “Forst Nicox” are very good ambient pieces. “Carmen” is very monochromatic, accented by some very slight keyboards here and there, but perhaps most impressively is the use of opera samples. What’s particularly wonderful about that is simply how they’re integrated into the piece. They are not distorted so much as blended into the background, delicately washed into the music. “Forst Nicox” is considerably lighter and dreamier, almost if Boards of Canada lost the beats and the child-like vocal samples.

Unfortunately from there, the album dips back down into mediocrity. “Latin Lava” and “Dark Room” are minimal techno pieces that do not stand out much at all. Finally, the album concludes with “Binal True”, the most overtly Dandy Jack centered track. Once again, it does not even come close to being as good as his other material. Essentially it is a harder techno oriented piece with little or no melody of which to speak. What results is not only boring and overly repetitive, it disrupts the flow of the rest of the album.

In the end, this is definitely one of FAX’s worst releases, yet it really is not all that bad. If anything, the album fails because it is inconsistent; some tracks, such as the first, are not even that well thought out. So, there are certainly some duds here, but Namlook and Jack have succeeded in creating at least two very memorable tracks (“Deep Influence” and “Carmen”). However, it is at least worth hearing once, especially if you are new to the FAX label.


By: Dane Schultz
Published on: 2003-09-01
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