Saturday, March 11, 2017

Song of the day

"Valve (Revisited)", by Visible Cloaks & dip in the pool.

Visible Cloaks work with the kind of hyper-digital soundscapes that can be found on the James Ferraro record "Far Side Virtual", which The Wire magazine named album of the year a couple of years back, or which would (at least in one's dreams) work perfectly on the soundtrack for the upgraded "Bladerunner" movie that is, I'm told, on its way.

It is -- or for me it is, anyway -- music that can be difficult to really "feel" (although maybe that is the/a point; I think I described the Ferraro album somewhere, or maybe I just imagined it, as the audio equivalent of a Jeff Koons painting). There is a barrier that one needs to break through in terms of, well, finding the human in the music. (Or even, I hear you say, finding the music in the music.) Yet I find myself drawn back to "Reassemblage", the new Visible Cloaks album, and their first for Rvng Intl, perhaps feeling the pull of its very faint but unmistakeable allusions to the sounds Japanese artists in the orbit of Yellow Magic Orchestra were making around the early 1980s (which, you will remember, is when MIDI first appeared).

The second song on the album is called "Valve". It's hardly right to describe it as a "song" at all. Above, I used the word "soundscape". Whatever that might mean, I think it fits here. Woodblocks and sounds from nature intermingle with some very digital sounds that could never exist in nature. Occasionally, something that the casual listener might recognise as "music" drifts by. (Also: is that a rubber duck?) A disembodied and disassembled Japanese voice helps you on your way, but then you are on your own.

Anyway, it turns out that "Valve" reappears on the CD and, ahem, digital versions of the album as a "bonus track", "Valve (Revisited)", where it is utterly transformed into a pop song of real human emotional warmth; the voice reveals itself to be that of Miyako Koda, one half of dip in the pool, a Japanese duo who have, it turns out, been making music since (surprise!) the early 1980s. Further digging reveals that dip in the pool actually released an album on Rough Trade in 1986. (There, that got you interested.) (Smiths and Woodentops aside, my gaze had largely been averted from Rough Trade by then, so dip in the pool passed me by at that time (and at all times since, up to approximately yesterday, to be honest). I am about to embark upon the work of making up for lost time.)

To the extent that "Reassemblage" reveals its secrets very, very gradually, the sudden appearance of "Valve (Revisited)" is a revelation. As its own song, it certainly cries out to be listened to, but it is also a useful exercise to do so on the back of everything that has gone before it on the album. If you can't do that, the following clip takes the first minute of "Valve" itself and then segues into "Valve (Revisited)". It approximates the effect of coming out of the album into the latter, but reduced to a three-and-a-half-minute exercise, which in today's time-strapped world is an admirable public service.