Fluorescent Grey: Lying on the floor mingling with god in a Tijuana motel room next door to a veterinary supply store

Sitting down to listen to Fluorescent Grey's lengthily-titled release, I braced myself for an hour-long exercise in sampling self-indulgence once I noticed that Northern California-based producer Robbie Martin titled each piece in accordance with its originating mode of production and material. Some tracks are succinctly named—“Crackly Shell,” “Melting Fiber-Optic Necklace,” “Grinding Particles”—while others are clearly not, “I Am a Photograph of My Old Driveway, the Edges of the Photograph are Made of Cartoon Cow's Teeth, as the Cow's Mouth Closes I Explode Into a Firework Cloud of Red and Green Dog Biscuits” the most extreme example (Martin, who teaches electronic music-making techniques at schools in the Bay Area, apparently played the jittery beat-based track out of a boom box in 30 different locations and then edited the sections together to reform the song). Yet while it might be mildly interesting, for instance, that “Liquefied Breakdancing” was produced using water sounds only, sample-based music-making is no longer unusual.

How satisfying, then, to discover that Martin channels his zeal for unconventional sound sourcing into creating material that's generally something more than just bizarre noises haphazardly thrown together. His music is often the aural equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting, with intricate tendrils aggressively cast in multiple directions yet inexplicably cohering into massively detailed wholes. Martin's churning cauldrons of sound are as dense as Richard Devine's (“Melting Fiber-Optic Necklace” in particular recalls Devine in obsessively frenetic beatscaping mode), sometimes so overwhelmingly dense it verges on claustrophobic. Still, an almost ridiculously detailed piece like “Purple Gears with Green Bolts of Electricity” also throbs and churns with a coherent purpose that emerges strongly even during a single listen. Martin also wisely exploits contrast by wrestling the album into different shapes, with aptly-titled pieces like “Indian Classical Beat Sliced and Sautéed (Pt. 3),” “Kabuki Drum & Bass” (admittedly overlong at 11 minutes), and “Ragga Jungle Nagauta” suggestive of the broad range covered. With a veritable encyclopedia of sounds squeezed into its 73 minutes, Fluorescent Grey's disc certainly gives the listener his/her money's worth.

October 2006