DJ Olive: Buoy

At first glance, I expected DJ Olive's Buoy to be a standardized CD mix disc, but then quickly revised my expectation when I noticed the label—ROOM40—on which it appears. Which prompted me to then wonder whether Buoy might sound like the label's two-disc Melatonin–Meditations On Sound In Sleep. Strangely enough, it is similar in that Buoy also inhabits a realm of prolonged quietude seemingly perched between states of waking and dreaming. Put most simply, Buoy is a becalmed ambient piece by Gregor Asch (DJ Olive) but that description, even if superficially accurate, hardly does justice to the activity that unfurls over the course of its hour-long duration.

In the liner notes, Asch acknowledges the piece's somnambulant qualities by referring to it as a 'sleeping pill' which should be listened to as quietly as possible; abiding by his suggestion, though, means that much of this subdued work's detail could be missed. Citing the piece's 'metaphorical' dimension, he notes that a buoy acts as “an anchored marker that maps the passing waves,” an idea that finds its musical analogue in the central thread of murmuring burbles, piano chords, and synth ripples that glacially morphs throughout; at one moment, this core might be comprised of soft orchestral flutes and strings and, at another, wind smears and whispered drum brushes. The title choice appropriately signifies its contents' floating quality, as sections drift from background to foreground. The piece's 'environmental' dimension alludes to the mercurial stream of field samples that surfaces throughout and constellates around that central core, faint sounds that include soft clanks, garbled chatter, footsteps, a cuckoo clock, door creaks, even what sounds like Yoko Ono speaking. Finally, there's a literal dimension to the title as sounds of lapping waves and creaking boats intermittently arise. Strangely, the piece in its final moments shifts its focus to a wholly different sonic lexicon (eating and swallowing noises, laughter, guitars) before ending with bird and wind sounds.

What Buoy most simulates is that sleepy state where sensations blurrily pulsate and the usual separations between activity within and without temporarily collapse; those gentle wave sounds, for example, might just as easily be seeping in through an open window as emerging within a fleeting memory trace. Don't expect, though, anything as conventional as a climactic resolution as Buoy maintains a consistently even dynamic throughout. Still, it's an unusual work that, in its own quietly subversive way, is provocative.

December 2004