A good map is the fascinating compilation lowercase (Bremsstrahlung, at www.lowercasesound.com), two discs of sedate crackles, barely audible bleeps, real-life sound and lots of silence in a well-documented package. It features such minimalist heavyweights as Steve Roden (who coined the term lowercase sound), Bernhard Gunter, Taylor Deupree and Nosei Sakata (who uses the pseudonym *0), as well as arty hip-hopper Kid606. Obvious reference points abound -- John Cage's sonic openness, the conceptual pranks of Fluxus, the quiet restraint of Morton Feldman -- but the lowercasers aren't mere copycats. For starters, they're often more listenable and tend to keep any sense of humor well-hidden. Many are fascinated by processes and experiments -- contact-miking a car engine, for instance -- possibly why the work sometimes adopts a pseudo-scientific veneer (one liner note reads, "digitally frozen contemplation in cellular microstructure about relativity of silence"; maybe there's some humor here after all). Lowercase sound is decidedly based in electronics and recording technology: almost none of it involves unaltered conventional instruments, and scores (even as ambiguous as those of Fluxus) don't exist.
So why listen? As Ezra Pound said, one language can't express all thoughts. Many lowercase pieces go places more conventional work could never take us. Maybe an intense focus on sound removed from other contexts creates its own pleasure, like enjoying the feel of silk apart from use in clothing. Jason Lescalleet's particularly appealing "needles," for instance, recalls the placid calm of hearing blank spaces on a scratchy LP.
Despite its cohesion, lowercase is only an introduction. Ryoji Ikeda's bracing, intense pieces are unfortunately missing from the compilation. And most of the contributors, quite a prolific bunch, have their own albums available. For instance, Bernhard Gunter's landmark Details Agrandis (one of his roughly 10 albums in seven years), was reissued by Atlanta's Table of the Elements. Or check out Variious (yes, with a double "i," released by Intransitive) to hear minimalism conversing with other experimental tendencies. Several lowercase contributors reappear among field recordings, feedback improvisations, turntable collages and general mad-scientist deviousness. This is some of the most exciting music being made; if nothing else, it'll have you hearing your drive to work tomorrow quite differently.
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*Christ, Lord sorry
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