Doldrums, Desk Trickery (Kranky)

Posted December 31st, 1998 by admin

Desk Trickery
By: Eric G.

Doldrums is all about the manipulation of sound. The album title seems to be culled from a review of the band’s last album, Feng Shui, in which the reviewer from The Wire referred to the band’s mutated use of technology as “desk trickery.” All is not what it seems on this record. Everything that sounds like sampling, looping, sequencing, and break beat is really just a damaged guitar being heavily processed. The opening metallic clangings of “Office Scene” are, thankfully, not a foreshadowing of what is to come. “Sparkling Deadheadz” quickly kicks in and layers the aforementioned guitar mutations with a driving, repetitive beat. The song eventually has its layers peeled away to reveal an ethereal though chaotic meltdown. “Fritland” meanders a bit into the realm of improvisation with a shrill and piercing wave of noise that is kept at relatively low volumes.

Doldrums’ inspiration comes from the endless possibilities of fusing digital technology with instrumental improvisation. The band does make an infrequent foray into the use of vocals, however, which looks like a bad idea on paper, but actually fits well with the juxtaposition of jittery noises and live jamming. The result is multi-textured. The wall of sound effect has a foundation that sounds like the Earth’s plates shifting while strange, skittering sounds weave closer to the forefront. “Free Festival Of The Stonebridge” is the closest Doldrums comes to a “song” in the traditional sense, and is the album’s centerpiece, running in excess of thirteen minutes. It sounds like a band playing live with all sorts of stray sound effects plucking away. The vocals are soft and serene. An enveloping swell of noise threatens to cast the song in shadow but levels off to reveal an extended jam. Doldrums has mastered the unorthodox union of digital editing and improvisational performance, and Desk Trickery ups the ante.

Tags: review