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7 April 2013

Eardrum - 'Last Light' (Leaf)

Eardrum, a British duo (I assume they are British - you can just tell), put out this double LP in 1999 and  my rhythm-seeking ears were thrilled at the time. This is a work of complex assemblage, made to feel like an organic jam; I'm not sure if it belongs in the 'electronica' genre or if it's dance music or why any of that matters, but people like to classify things. The drum in the name Eardrum is key here, as this is built around percussion. This appealed to me because Eardrum avoided harsh, dance-like club beats and used acoustic recordings; the multilayered psychedelic quilt that results is invigorating, light, and functions as both deep-listening and good-time music. Polyrhythmic syncopation is just the base; the various textures are the real joy here, and they are built from howling echo effects, wispy flutes, and other accents. 'Swamp Doctor' opens up side two with a lighter pitter-patter, suggesting equatorial music, but it somehow escapes any stereotypes, even that of eclectic hybrid forms. I also like O.Rang, who I'm reminded of by this; such invigorating exotica is not everyday fare for me, but it's hard to find fault. When the beats get more rapid, as on 'Nightcrawler', it's never overwhelming; there's enough counterpoint and development over the course of each piece to keep things moving. Tension is immediately released, and when occasional digital artefacts are audible, they feel more like phase/flange effects than glitch-core. It's an achievement to make music that is clearly constructed from samples, edits and very finicky details yet still manages to feel so loose. The four sides of this go by quickly, mastered loud on 180-gram vinyl that has strangely sharp edges to it. It a melting pot, clearly sampled from worldwide sources, but darting in and out of various regions. 'From the Nucleus' starts to take on a rainforest feel, with sonorities not a million miles from Gamelan music, but doesn't commit. Perhaps this is true contemporary music, a grey-washing that aims for the middle of all metrics and somehow doesn't  feel blanched. Reading back over this post, I realise that almost every sentence asserts something about Eardrum and then gives a qualifying "but..." so maybe this balance is even evident when listening. Active balance, perhaps?

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