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LP Feature/ Minus Pilots: "Superior Proof of Cinema"

img  Tobias

Just when you'd resigned yourself to the sad but seemingly inescapable fact that even contemporary experimental music needs to make a momentuous first impression or risk being berried on the impenetrable fields of musical history's vast and ever-growing graveyard, an album like „Superior Proof of Cinema“ comes along and offers an enticing alternative. Essentially using nothing but effect-laden electric Bass and old tape recorders for instrumentation, it is hard to imagine a record trying harder to fall below the perceptional radar of most listeners than this one. And yet, after the needle has returned to its starting position, you're glowing from the inside, feeling warm, cozy and sensuous and ready to flip the disc and give it a second spin.

It would, on the other hand, be wrong to conclude that Minus Pilots' first official full-length were one of these typical albums which initially leave you cold only to then sneak up on you when you least epect it and gradually grow on you over time. Instead, American visual artist Parskid's artwork, which makes full use of the cover's heavy cardboard Gatefold  dimensions,  instantly grabs you the very moment you unwrap it from its protective plastic foil: An air of mystery and romance pervades a dark, nocturnal forrest inhabited by red-caped mouthless homunculi, referencing the band's goal of creating music „designed for listening through headphones while gazing at the stars“. The 180g Vinyl, meanwhile, seems to represent more than just a high-quality format to protect the integrity of the fragile sounds carved upon it. Rather, while playing, it increasingly takes on the appearance of a rotating disc-world, the turntable's needle inquisitively scanning its surface for beauty.

If „Superior Proof of Cinema“ indeed fails to immediately stun its audience, then it is mainly because of its radical minimalism. All six pieces display an obsesive fascination for feeding organically resonating, comforting Bass sounds through a delay unit. In terms of composition, there are no secrets to unravel: Pieces either represent improvisations over a continuous loop, rhythmical variations of barely two or three note short melodic motives, melodic variations of a gently shifting rhythmical pattern or freely floating soundscapes feeling their way forward from tone to tone. Each theme invariably creates a silent slipstream of echoes and as tracks progress, these reverberations start interacting with each other and forming scintillating harmonic fields. Attention can therefore always either be focussed on the original source material, on the undulating sheets of sound following in their wake or on both at the same time, allowing for various, highly divergent experiences of one and the same piece.

One could of course claim that this technique is simplistic and, stretched over the course of three quarters of an hour, formulaic. Admittedly, anyone working in the field of Ambient and Sound Art will have played around and messed about with delay at one point or the other, as this particular effect allows for rich and rewarding textures with a minum of technological expertise, overlapping frequencies reinforcing or subdueing each other to create breathing atmospheres almost without external input. Still, the challenge of creating enticing and non-cliched music remains as hard as ever. As Minus Pilots prove on this occasion, it is not just about playing the right notes, but about which to leave out as well. Ythere's a sense of whispered excitement preceeding each semblance and a sense of great expectation and curiosity on how it will influence the overall sonic image, resulting in pacified pieces filled with a natural sense of tension and release.

To take the right decisions in such a stripped-down environment, you have to start thinking in echoes. Your mind needs to become an ocean, sending waves of aural images towards your hands to set the strings of your instrument in motion and listeners into a world of pure fluctuation. As you first accept and then adapt to the fact that everything softly repeats itself before dying down completely, the music wins you over because of its unfaltering reliance on a spartanic pool of methods. It is this extreme nakedness, this absolute will to never deviate from a single mood, which makes „Superior Proof of Cinema“ such an insistent experience.

This, too, is another remarkable fact about the album: Just when you'd resigned yourself to the sad but seemingly inescapable fact that even contemporary experimental music needs to draw from as many influences as possible to prove how eclectic and open-minded its creators really are, the alluring monochromatic depth of this record offers an enticing alternative.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Minus Pilots
Homepage: Panic Arrest Records

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