The rain immediately began pouring outside All Saints’ as I was typing this post up. I might be trapped in here for a little while.
Mark Fell’s “Manitutshu” is one of my favorite discoveries from last year, along with DJ Sprinkles’ Midtown 120 Blues (another excellent, more traditional dance record, and the work of Terre Thaemlitz, who worked with Fell on an EP and a “conceptual 32-hour SD card”). Fell’s work falls vaguely under the umbrella of “multidisciplinary art”, but usually stays localized in audiovisual performances, computer science, and the live application of algorithms and generative processes to electronic music.
This is an album preview from Experimedia.
Manitutshu was born from a number of samples and presets designed for use in a Native Instruments softsynth designed by musician Errorsmith (Erik Wiegand). After roundly rejecting each and every one that Fell created, the project was eventually turned to more conventional hands. Fell, however, never anything but inspired by criticism - “the funklessest person alive” - decided to adapt the presets to a number of tracks, which were first released as a double 12” single before being released on Editions Mego as a full album.
Manitutshu extracts all sense of familiarity from electronic music - what little there was - and rebuilds it from the bottom up. Composed of seemingly random, yet mathematically determined patterns, this record plays like a careless accumulation of one hundred Morse code patterns, stripped of context and fed through the harshest acid techno pads available. Tracks break and return with the aid of brief samples of French dialogue, landing somewhere between misanthropic footwork and the best things Autechre have put out. And like Draft 7.30, it all seems vaguely alien, but uncanny in how inviting it can be as well.
Fell’s caution and patience in arranging these discarded presets give it the cadence of interpretive dance; dynamic and engaging enough, just far enough between Roach and Monolake that I don’t mind never knowing where it’ll wind up.
Oh wait, I think the rain stopped.
Highly recommended if you like beautiful, inventive synth sounds and erratic rhythms.