on June 11, 2003
Danny Zelonky's releases on Mille Plateaux, as Crank, are some of my favorite discs in the realm of music that pulverizes the boundary between electronic beats and dsp noise free-for-alls. Never as goofy as fellow California laptoppers such as Lesser and Blectum from Blechdom, Crank delivers a more slyly twisted sort of off-kilter musical humor.
I'll admit that I haven't heard "Approximate Love Boat", Zelonky's acclaimed first Low Res release, but "Blue Ramen" fails to meet the high expectations I had for an artist I consider such an inspiration.
That's not to say it's a terrible album. Organ driven lounge music and jazz-as-exotica is filtered through a subtle haze of digital effects trickery. Now, normally, when my opinion of an album changes after repeat listenings, it tends to improve, as I detect subtleties and elements to the overall feel that I hadn't noticed before. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened with "Blue Ramen". The initial novelty of bossa-nova congas run through a digital ring modulator and aimless cocktail piano tinkling slightly disrupted by a glitch flicker wears thin when your ears begin to seek out the substance behind the attention-grabbing flash.
The sense that all is not as it seems is the primary strength of this album. The banal instrumentation is at odds with the techniques used to construct the music. As conceptual art commenting on and interrogating notions of artistic novelty and the intriguing idea of false nostalgia, this disc is a fine exercise in illusion and authenticity. Nevertheless, when I drop $15+ on a cd, I'm hoping for the music to stand on its own merits when the novelty aspects cease to surprise. If you want to see what creative wonders Zelonky is truly capable of, pick up Crank's "Heftibag". I'll leave Low Res to the remnants of the Lounge revivalist scene. Their weariness is no doubt aptly reflected in the half-hearted tweaks given to this meandering music. Altogether, "Blue Ramen" lacks the twists and turns it would need before it could begin to be called interesting.
on October 15, 2002
It took me a long time to figure it out myself. The fact that it is full of references to everything that makes jazz stuff interesting kind of draws away the attention of the incredible layering that is so much Low Res' thing. At first you go like. What the fu** is this? Then you hear the structured parts. They are not on top but give you the impression it's something you know while...in fact it is not. Next the layers start peeling off, the brilliant dsp use not bruising any melody, not using the (lately) obvious clicks and cuts but adding subtlety very much a trademark of his own. It took me a while, i have to admit, to fully hear the essence of the record, but that's what happens with old free jazz records
all the time. Once completely into the record you just feel how he sculptured this jazztronic thing, full of respect for what has been but with the eye on the future, gently taking it to the next level. He is far ahead with this. I know because even for me it takes a while before I let go of the things I know and just enjoy this new form of approach. It's a cd that makes you think, that provokes a reaction and makes you want to listen to it repeatedly because of the hidden treasures. That's what I like about records. I do believe that it will get reactions from both jazz & electronic sides that will put it in a completely different context, but i'm sure that the reaction alone (positive or negative) is an achievement on it's own.
on October 18, 2002
Low Res will forever be in our debt. As one half of the mighty Trash Aesthetic he turned our world upside down when he produced the legendary Shadow Huntaz 12" on Plug Research a few years ago. Then the killer tracks on the two Scape comps, (Staeditizm 1 & 2), then nothing. It's been nearly four years since Low Res' last album 'Approximate Love Boat' , so has the wait been worth it? Yes (of course). 'Blue Ramen' is alternate universe blaxploitation music - blues, jazz, soul transmitted from the Starship Enterprise in 1977. In fact this album claims to be improvised, hard to figure.... a deranged jazz big band locked in a sampler / a loungey Atom Heart minus the glitch, Duke Ellington conducting robots. All of this and nothing applies to 'Blue Ramen'.
Indulge yourself. Buy.