Claro Intelecto


lbum titles can be a very persuasive call to arms. I’ll admit it—Fennesz’s Endless Summer marketing ploy worked on me. Listening to the album during last year’s humid Chicago summers, the dubbed and warmly filtered guitars hooked me with the promotional splash of pop nostalgia. Through the powers of association, the album’s Beach Boys visuals allowed an easier acceptance of Fennesz’s atmospherics. Instead of heavily filtered Mego avant-music, Fennesz was also pop-friendly. Claro Intelecto’s Neurofibro appears to use the same twist. Thankfully, the strength of the music outweighs the (exploitative?) marketing hook of Neurofibro, with the great addition of electro into Claro Intelecto’s IDM/techno music stew.

Intrinsically connected to the album title is the obligatory and press-released description of Mark Stewart’s affliction while recording the album. The name “Neurofibro” derives from the nerve disease Neurofibromatosis—a set of genetic disorders that cause tumors to grow along various types of nerves and, in addition, can affect the development of non-nervous tissues such as bones and skin. With such a description, the lingering question of how such a loaded title fits into the album’s themes arises—especially given the abstracted instrumental music on Neurofibro.

Perhaps it’s in his simplicity: Stewart’s dabbling in both dance and ‘intelligent dance’ (or non-dance) gives both sides of his minimalism interesting counter-point. From the bare piano structure of “Baudrillard’s Supper” to the menacingly claustrophobic soundscape of “Back,” minimalism for Stewart can take an abundance of styles. It also makes the album feel scattered—instead of developments, the collection of songs on Neurofibro clash against each other, accentuating individual textures. While as a developed musician Claro Intelecto presents nothing blatantly innovative, the clash of songs also intensifies Stewart’s refinement of various electronic genres from Autechre-trademarked granular textures (“Section”) to throwback electro sub-bass workouts (“Mono”).

The album’s opener “Peace of Mind” could be the most descriptive of such juxtaposition. The strong sub-bass stabs of the song inhabit the same vocabulary as electro, but carry none of the jubilant energy attributed to the foundations of Grandmaster Flash and the Miami Bass. With minor Rhodes and cavernous strings, Stewart uses electro’s tools for an emotional and melancholy effect. The re-working of the form is fascinating, gently unfolding layers with each reprisal of the swooning motif.

After releasing just two EPs, this collection of thoroughly engaging songs is difficult to read as a whole. Missing from Neurofibro is an explicit statement of intent that many of Stewart’s peers approach. Instead, we’re left with a shadow of one, a blank delivery of a very intimate condition, and highly reminiscent of Gillian Wearing’s “Trauma.” Like Wearing’s well-placed mask, there’s no real sense of how to read Stewart’s instrumental music in the context of such a harrowing condition. Because of it, the album appears more discombobulated than either of Claro Intelecto’s earlier EPs (Peace of Mind, Section).

Reviewed by: Nate De Young

Reviewed on: 2004-06-28

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