'My way' by Akufen
by Ian Simmons
[ cdreviews ]
My partner Rachel thinks this lot sound like they ought to be a headache remedy like Ibuprofen, Nurofen, Akufen... It certainly fits; and on listening, nothing exactly disabuses you of the notion. The music here is deep, expansive and calm, plushly produced rhythmic flows unreeling calmly in warm and soothing pulses of sound. This engaging flow, however, disguises much of the music's origin.
Akufen is Montreal obsessive Marc Leclair, and his obsession is microsampling. He starts each day surfing the airwaves on an array of short-wave radios and tuners, pulling down shards of sound as he flickers from station to station. Fragments of word, the faintest tic of a drum, a guitar note excised from all context are gathered from the ether and recombined to generate the music here, not that you would necessarily notice this on first listening: the steady techno beat that pins each track together is highly deceptive, lulling you into the illusion that this is a standard, if classy, piece of laptopiary. But listen closer and the innate strangeness of the music's texture emerges an you realise how effectively those whirling slivers of random sound have been marshalled into coherent form. Leclair's dedication to creating music from other's sonic debris is akin to that of DJ Shadow, but with the randomised flow of the Canadian airwaves replacing Shadow's awesome collection of vinyl obscuriana, and with it the element of control over the sound source. The ten tracks here are given space to expand and develop their sound, making the best use of their samples and sprawling out into relaxed landscapes of funk, which, on occasions, almost achieve the sinuous insistence of a Funkadelic.
There is, however, also a downside to all this seamless techno funk production: you can be left wondering quite why he bothered with the microsampling. The music is so seamless, so integrated, that almost no trace is left of the source at times - skilled, to be sure, but it can't be simple, all that poring over radios, taping, selecting splicing, and similar results could be produced in a far easier manner by other means. Sometimes, though, as on "Deck the House", the scatter of radio source makes its presence felt and the track benefits from it, carrying, as it does, overtones of Holger Czukay's games with radio. I can't help feeling that a greater music is lying in wait here, were the reliance on the four to the floor beat to be broken and the microsamples set free to find their own form. Excellent though their use is in this context, they have the potential to be turned into something truly startling.