Sunday, 24 October 2010

Variable Resistance - Daughter Of The Revolution

Got this little package through the post the other day, which made a change from downloads – you can’t put your arms around an MP3 (you can wrap a hand around this) - not that I’ve hugged an album since I found ‘Lalo = Brilliance’ second-hand for six quid several years ago.   Design fetishism came with the LP-buying (my) generation, and how could it not when there was ‘Sticky Fingers’ to be unzipped, and the inner sleeve to ‘Led Zeppelin III’ to twirl around? Not forgetting the ‘Physical Graffiti’ windows with interchangeable inhabitants – look, Lee Harvey Oswald! And there’s Flash Gordon! Etc. The weight of that product perfectly matched the ‘heavy’ contents, as did the mind/eye expanding triple indulgence of a Yes LP, I’m sure (never owned one, honest).
   If extravagant weighty packaging matched the content of LPs I have loved it seems fitting also that so much modern music weighs nothing and does not physically exist. It’s a load of weightless, worthless crap.
   So this little box (one of only 175) is the first ultra-designed (handmade in fact) musical product I’ve bought in a very long time, so long I can’t recall the last, and looking through what remains of my vinyl I find nothing like it. There’s a market for the whole cottage industry school of production, and I admire the idea. Why not only make a couple of hundred CDs? It makes them special. Folks and purr and sigh with print from the sleeve on their hands and delicately fondle them because in this age of the download beauty of that kind is a rare thing. I feel the same about my Sun Ra Detroit Jazz Centre box, not because of the design, but the opposite, it’s crudity, complete with only basic A4 print out pages for listing and CDR sleeves for the 28 discs.
   The makers of the ‘Variable Resistance’ box, Cotton Goods, specialise in doing this kind of thing. It’s all they do. It reminds me of when I used to make a fanzine, cut’n’paste, Zerox, staple together...heady days, sniffin’ Pritt Stick...proper punk rock it was...
   Miles Whittaker of Demdike Stare is Daughter Of The Industrial Revolution. He’s an eclectic fellow operating under other guises too, making Techno as Pendle Coven and MLZ, along with the unique DS output. As opposed to me, he’s a big collector, but instead of trying to show off all those influences on ‘Variable Resistance’ he stays within a limited remit which you might call ambient, although possibly my favourite of the tunes (ha-ha), ‘Shape 4’, is to ambient what Stravinsky was to classical when he shook the world with his brand new bag. Jarring, disconcerting, ghostly echoes in submerged snapshots – it makes me imagine being able to peer into the depths of the Atlantic and see the Titanic's dead, faces pressed against the portholes – god knows where that came from...
   ‘Nutrient Flush’ is so much the bare bones of Techno, it makes Plastikman sound like Led Zeppelin – and after listening to all this restraint a few times and initially not being too impressed I’ve found it grows and thus, dear reader, does my admiration. He gets a bit lively on ‘Photon Shopping’ mind you, if only by beating you again and again with the same sound phased in and out. But if, like me, you’re partial to the sound of throbbing electronics, you’ll agree it’s wonderful.

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