VA: Two Point Two

Some compilations come across as lazy collections of leftover tracks, while others act as satisfying filler between label artists' full-length offerings. The rarest kind, however, become manifestos, definitive statements that overshadow by their collective impact the label's individual artist recordings. While Mille Plateaux's Clicks & Cuts series might qualify in this regard, there's no question that Two Point Two certainly does. It's a definitive collection of 'minimalist digital sound art' that highlights the rosters of the New York-based 12k and Line labels managed by Taylor Deupree and Richard Chartier. While the two discs complement one another, 12k's slightly greater emphasis upon rhythmic pulse is discernible, while the more drone-like Line tracks burrow further into molecular textures. These are sophisticated microminimal works that might best be described as 'sound sculptures,' as so many are static synthetic vistas that develop meditatively. This description, however, might suggest that the discs are full of ambient inactivity where one piece is indistinguishable from the next. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the music teems with sonic activity, and pieces distinguish themselves thoroughly from one another. The ambient beehive of distant glissandi and chattering electronics in Taylor Deupree's “Unnatural Template” is dramatically unlike Ken'Ichi Itoi's bouncy and robust “455” with its clipped bass tones and mercurial treble patterns. A good example of the distinctive sound worlds conjured on these disks is Chartier's “Archival 1992” whose haunted sounds echo like distant whale cries. Laden with static and crackles, tracks by Sébastien Roux, Sogar + Uison, Skoltz_Kolgen, and Doron Sadja + Motion suggest a strong Fennesz influence, while the skittering electronics of M Fell's “Egg From a Fetus” recall Oval. The coup de grâce, however, is Kenneth Kirschner's epic “June 8, 2003.” While it begins quietly, an intense amount of activity quickly emerges with distant voices heard amongst the static and glistening tones. A satisfying spatial quality permeates the piece as it unfolds slowly over twenty-four minutes, with episodes ebbing and flowing in wave-like manner. Anyone looking for beats should be forewarned, as Two Point Two offers no such conventional anchor, and, at over two hours, is exhausting listening when ingested in its entirety. Admittedly, Deupree and Chartier demand that the listener adopt a strongly active role in attending to such nuanced music but, in this case, patience and effort reap strong listening rewards.

December 2003