A piece in the puzzle

Mar 28, 2001 at 12:00 am

We are witnessing the evolution of the click and the cut. Many watched in horror as be-decked and be-laptopped entities such as Oval, Autechre and Pan Sonic stripped away any peripheral attractions that so characterized the ’80s and early ’90s, but perhaps at this point they can rest assured that it was done in the name of research. Though it was done probably more out of either boredom or frustration, take your pick.

Fact is, electronic music in the last two decades first went near-mainstream with soulful, groove-oriented sounds of generational ballads such as “Strings of Life” and “Good Life.” But what is it that makes up these songs? Dissecting their parts would reveal some surprising results, and a rhythm structure that would most surely incorporate a steady click and cut.

If electronic music began only within the last two decades, it would be a story of evolutionary chaos. But electronic sound experiments date back many decades, with a series of sound elements that can be more precisely drawn to the likes of a ’60s-era Raymond Scott, and that’s the link that leads to Stockholm’s Andreas Tilliander.

That’s not to say that Tilliander picks up on the second release where Scott left off. To propose that the author of Ljud is not familiar with the dance music phase of electronic music would be a farce and a virtually impossible feat in this day and age. What’s interesting about Tilliander’s 10, unnamed excursions is an acknowledgement of both camps. On one hand, subtlety is the key, whether it is a bass source laid very low within the mix (best listened to on an adequate sound system) or pseudo-static placed in just the right place. On the other hand, the music seems to want to escape at times from the simplicity that a minimalist approach might bring; Cut five, in particular, approaches funk without actually ’fessing up to it in the end. Cut six gives way to the dance floor, but with a dubbed-down drum pattern that would attempt to disavow a direct lineage. And so it goes with Ljud, a reverse synthesis of the evolution of dance music. Yes, just that, actually. But just as time allows each collective sound to become a phase, I have a feeling that the story isn’t quite over yet, either by Tilliander or by anyone with a curious mind and a home computer.

E-mail Liz Copeland at [email protected].