Freeform’s Audiotourism: Vietnam and China was one of my favorite releases last year. The second part of this project (which was released about a month ago) is a double CD. One disc contains the original recordings Simon Pyke took on his trip, while the other contains compositions by other artists based on Pyke’s recordings. The original samples are interesting in an ambient, sound effects record sort of way, but the reinterpretations are definitely the selling point.
Jan Jelinek’s low-key track features deep burbling bass and languid vibrophone smatterings. Tal’s experimentation with vocal snippets is a bit unsatisfying, with a simplistic melody and uninspired editing. I actually have trouble listening to the entire thing. Thankfully, Shudo’s composition is a return to the exotic noises that make this project tick. Gongs reverb in the background while distorted claps rattle over top. A dirty, funky bassline eventually starts up, making for a very strange effect. Mash’ta’s “Buddhistgroovemaster,” manages to combine an old-school techno beat with a subtle melody. Bill Laswell’s contribution sounds very similar to one of the Freeform compositions on the original release, with new layers overtop that make it much more interesting. It’s like a sources mega-mix.
Next, Atom™ offers one of the more creative treatments of the source material, with layers of noise that cut in and out, and a few vocal snippets to boot. Colongib & Octopus Inc. contribute a rather abstract track with little string plucks over convoluted percussion and bass. Finally, Autechre has created one of their most minimalist efforts to date, with hypnotic clicking and clattering percussion.
With the exception of the Tal cut (which isn’t really my style), this entire collection makes for an interesting, if sometimes difficult, experience. After a month of listenings, I still feel like I’m discovering the tracks. Remember to follow the operating instructions: “Headphone listening in complete darkness is recommended.”