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Aspects of Physics :: MIF1 Review

SD Music Matters

Computers, Alienation. The blurred lines between man and machine. These interrelated and overused subjects are often called to mind by purveyors of “electronic” music, that vast blanket term used to describe music as traditionally song-based as Radiohead or as exploratory as Fennesz. A sense of electroexstential dread mostly halts at the album cover for the ambient sound-fields created by Aspects of Physics. The cover, which appears as a computer program or burned disc of files, seems to willfully obscure the intricate expressions housed in Marginalized Information Forms One: Ping, an album that adeptly avoids electronic cliché in moody, vocal-free ambiance. Case in point: my less-than-trusty laptop closed shop halfway through writing this review, erasing half of these irreplaceably brilliant descriptions. I misguidedly threw down my headphones in frustration. “This program has performed and illegal operation”? What the fuck?

Keeping sanity in the face of computer malfunction is especially difficult. Just put the headphones back on. Refocus. Suddenly the music at hand is godsend. If machines are slowly destroying us, the music they create on Marginalized Information makes it sound heavenly.

Staying unpredictable helps the collective immensely in avoiding unintended “sleepiness”. At nearly 10 minutes, the first fully formed song on the album, “Ping”, shows a knack for holding listener attention that thankfully maintains for the entire album. Through the music will be considered “ambient”, that is not to say it has no drama – drama, not histrionics. “Ping” build, adding layered guitars part way through which finish the song alone, leaving guitar fans pleased while maintaining the song’s electronic identity as multiple synth lines form the song’s backbone.

It makes sense that Aspects Of Physics features members from San Diego notables like Pinback and The Black Heart Procession. This is ambient music for guitar-band fans, not for removed from “Kid A” territory with enough structural footholds to ground the buzz and whir electronic whimsy. “Neutrino” is perhaps the best intro for neophytes of the genre seeking out the band out of interest in its members. As only two minutes, the song’s bass note swoops are gorgeous, and the start guitar lines recall Pinback and… the Cure? The opening of “A Forest” is the closest touchstone.

The glitchy “Plippus” in mechanically ethereal in the proud vein of Björk’s and Sigur Rós. That doesn’t prevent it from being an entirely pleasing stab at glitch-pop heights. Only a killjoy could resist the song’s icy beauty, its spare notes flourished by synthesized harps.

Early reviews of Marginalized Information emphasize the music’s ability to the listener “philosophize” or “theorize”. It’s true that the music leaves room for the mind to wander in relation to the sound, which is probably due to its insistence on exploration. Musical themes are rarely revisited without being tweaked, and this quality is what makes the mood somewhat indeterminable. Only in two songs at the end of the album, “Jatchtas” and “Arnologer”, is this a bad thing. “Jatchtas” is too mild and “Arnologer” too frenetic (both too short) to really amount to anything memorable. Perhaps they server as a buffer between the album’s most emotional songs, “Reversevent” and “Scene of Changery”. “Reversevent” evokes a powerful feeling of unease from its crackling electronics, which sound like someone angrily wadding up paper, and its dissonant guitars, which offer little melodic resolve. It’s one of the few songs to fiercely tap the “dread” card, making it an effective counterpoint to the rest of the album’s more amiable character. Pardoning a somewhat awful title, “Scene of Changery” evokes stronger emotion than anything else on the album. It’s a smart choice for a closer as it features the most guitar on the album, with post-rock being the operative influence. While the rest of the album is not without its share of memorable moments, those guitar notes stay ringing in your head the longest, punctuated by sudden live drums. Maybe it’s because, however processed, guitar has always seemed “human” while keyboards and laptop miscellanea seem more cold and alien. The terrific guitar work across Marginalized Information helps to bridge this gap between mechanical and human noise. Of course, it’s all human…and mechanical. While Marginalized Information may continue the tradition of distorting the distinction between man and machine, it does so with allure.

-- Billy Gil