So far, Spencer Doran's mixtapes have overshadowed his actual albums. In 2010, the Portland, Oregon, producer posted Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo--Fourth-World Japan, Years 1980-1986, a stunning collection of early-'80s Japanese synthesizer music by artists like Yellow Magic Orchestra's Haruomi Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto. While not a party-starting DJ set, it was in its own meticulous, contemplative way, influential; you can hear its sensibility course through later works by the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never, Neon Indian, Motion Graphics, and the entire vaporwave contingency.
Reassemblage is a 1982 film by Vietnamese filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha. Ostensibly it's about life in post-colonial Senegal, but really it's a critique of films that try to explain one culture from the perspective of another. Minh-ha's disjointed sequence of sounds and images doesn't help us understand the Senegalese way of life so much as bewilder us further.
There is no greater joy than getting completely, utterly lost in a record. To be so consumed by an album's sound world that the real world simply passes you by. This is something Portland duo Visible Cloaks achieve on their latest record Reassemblage. Their experimental, ambient album is a sonic delight that is as captivating as it is calming.
In a recent interview with Pitchfork, glam veteran-turned-mega producer-turned-ambient philosopher Brian Eno offered a glimpse into his music making process. Detailing his new album Reflection, the 54-minute ambient soundscape he released earlier this year, Eno talked about his studio habits, sonic proclivities, and how he achieves the studied minimalism that has become his trademark sound. “As soon as you think of something as a film soundtrack, you're thinking of something that is behind the action, that is not the action itself,” he said, explaining how he moves “toward minimalism”.
For their debut album as Visible Cloaks, Spencer Doran and Ryan Carlile produce sparkling, holographic tone poems that utilize generative processes and MIDI. The music is heavily inspired by early new age music, '80s Japanese artists like Mariah, and pretty much anything that fits under the "fourth world" umbrella. The pieces are generally short (only a few are over five minutes), and they're actually quite busy -- there might even be too much going on for this to really be considered true ambient music.
Visible Cloaks' Reassemblage offers a series of tracks that sputter and whir like early software-based music experiments. The duo, comprised of Spencer Doran and Ryan Carlile, juxtapose chance operations, MIDI "translations" and other generative principles to produce abstract musical environments.
Throughout the record, the duo use synths to evoke choral music, lush arrays of disfigured human voices in minimalist compositional structures. Vocoders on tracks like "Bloodstream" are used to explore the limitations of the human voice, without resorting to kitsch.
Reassemblage is compelling, sure, but perhaps only for those who have the patience or curiosity for an exploration of the sonic predecessors of electronica.