Only two circles are needed to form the sign for endless. The possibilities for OOO aka Nicholas C. Raftis III are also endless. He chose to build sounds into delicate, post-modern, complex structures of what is only badly described as electronic music. Greatly talented with the gift of almost intuitively finding the right beats and sounds to put together, he stays with computer-generated sounds that range from old keyboards to the fringes of power-electronics and the rhythm-bastards of old Warp-records. All mashed into one big pile of beautiful art, like a glass-tower or an ice-sculpture of the most fragile and filligrane design. Yet never foregoing the pounding basses and the long-winding floors of sounds. Everything moves, everything changes.
The fascination or even obsession of OOO with cycles and loops is a funny thing, because even if the barely readable liner notes are all about mystic/postmodern mathematics, about loops and repeats, about the magic of zero and nothingness and whatever might come to a creative mind, when thinking about the most interesting numbers (zero, one and pi. Sometimes also three and five and also seven, but that is about it), the music itself is neither very mathematical or repetitive. Actually, “upon cycles” lives from the plain emotions and clear atmospheres of its tracks. While zero and endless are fixed points with no movement possible, the music of OOO – and actually everything else as well – stretches across the vast place between those two points; which of course is endless as well, so the logical circle closes again. Semiotically the problem is none, though, because a space, even if it is endless, might be described as an endless space, and thereby is described. There you go, make of that what you will. I don’t believe it will help you any, except on late nights out and discussing about these things under the influence of a variety of mind-supporting drugs, which is the only place and time in which theories and statements like these will make sense. Otherwise they are just brainfood.
OOO is the artistical moniker of one Nicholas C. Raftis III. and “upon cycles” is his unbelievable debut. Unbelievable, because the sounds and dynamics of these 16 tracks is so interesting and challenging, that I would have expected them to come from some senior electronic musician such as Autechre or Tennis. Then again, Planet Mu as the label of Mike Paradinas aka µ-zig is just as good as a starting place. Raftis is a great talent in finding and arranging sounds that at the same time chill, relax and startle the listener. Various things go on at once in every track, everything seems to be moving in different directions, yet you never feel any loose ends or anything but natural growth within them. At the same time OOO manages to stay within a seemingly narrow field of sounds and forms. It is the variation and complexity within a designated and overseeable range of music, that makes “upon cycles” even more challenging.
Techno has come a long way, and – as with almost every Planet Mu release – I can hardly see a lot of people dancing or chilling to these sounds. Nevertheless, I’d like to hear the wobbling, low basses of “Next level of the tree” on the PA of a really big rave-club, preferably in an empty hall and turned up really loud. (If you start to bang your head to that track, you have definitely made another step away from mainstream-listening-habits. Not even Timbaland or The Neptunes would dream of using sounds like that for one of their million-seller-productions.) I am a big fan of pounding, synthetic bass-sounds, ever since Godflesh, but that is a whole different thing. At the end, “next level of the tree” disintegrates into a wall of noise and feedback filled with glass-chimes and the sound of whooshing fire. That is the point every dance-floor gets deserted. On the other hand, some sounds on “upon cycles” are so delicate and fragile that they would demand headphone-listening.
The overall atmosphere is relaxed, yet single bits dance and jitter like small bacterias under a microscope. The dissection doesn’t destroy the magic, quite the opposite, the aural senses are not able to follow the whole spectrum of sounds at all times, but has to pick out some parts of areas crowded with varying sounds. This is called the cocktail-party effect, because even with a hundred people talking at once, your ears and brains are able to follow what the person in front of you is saying. So get hung up on the beats, then the blinking keys, then the noises in the background, then the subtle organ in the back, then smile to the almost happy sounds of “turn indefinately” and so on and so on. “upon cycles” is neither bips’n’bleeps nor laptop-music nor Aphex Twin (that name just had to crop up somewhere), but a great mixture plus innovation of these parts. When complexity stretches over a large field and is looked at from great distance, the complexity vanishes and is replaced by sympathy. (Another trick of mind of our sensory systems.) No other music shows this more than electronic music. Let’s get lost in zeros and ones, bits and bites, god and electricity, basses and tweeters, 000 and 666.
P.S.: There are only ten kinds of people: those who understand binary code and those who don’t.
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