Organ Thing of The Day: Something rather soothing today, A taste of a forthcoming compilation album called ‘PRSNT’, an album that features Laurie Spiegel, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Pedro Vian & Pierre Bastien, Lyra Pramuk, Chassol, Nicolas Godin & Pierre Rousseau, Pascal Comelade, Visible Cloaks, Raül Refree, Lucrecia Dalt, Kelman Duran and Lafawndah. An album Created By Us & Modern Obscure Music.
“‘PRSNT’ is a unique global artistic project combining the input of artists across the worlds of music, video, and written word which acts as a statement on how we, as consumers, engage with music in the 21st century” (Ryuichi Sakamoto)
‘PRSNT’ is a unique global project combining the input of artists across the worlds of music, video and writing, which acts as a statement on how we, as consumers, engage with music in the 21st century. Vital electronic musicians including Ryuichi Sakamoto, Laurie Spiegel, Lafawndah, Lyra Pramuk, Lucrecia Dalt and Visible Cloaks have each contributed tracks, which are approximately 32 seconds long. The whole album lasts just 6 minutes 32 seconds.
The concept was devised by Created By Us and the Barcelona-based label Modern Obscure Music. They read a study which identified that the overwhelming volume of instantly accessible information online is shortening attention spans and altering how audiences engage with music digitally. Their curiosity about the state of online consumption developed further, on discovering that around a third of all listeners using digital platforms skip to the next track, within the first 30 seconds of playing.
Each musician was given a fascinating challenge to create an engaging composition with real artistic merit, inside the confines of this shortened span. Akin to Brian Eno’s famous Windows 95 start-up music, the time constraints are crucial, and the compositions are deceptively complex and more substantial than expectations of their nano nature would suggest.
‘PRSNT’ acts as a critique of flighty feed culture, but is simultaneously constructive, providing something which is either proposed solution, or “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” resignation. Every artist has interpreted the brief differently, resulting in an intriguing blueprint for the potential future of digital music. Could abbreviated micro compositions satisfy, inspire and nourish like their longer counterparts? They certainly take up much less of listeners’ busy lives, which are often spent tackling ever-increasing workloads.
The opening piece comes from Laurie Spiegel. The track ‘Fly By’, despite its length, contains a full development of the soft, illusive melody and mystery inherent in her oeuvre. Laurie Spiegel is a true icon of experimental music whose ground-breaking work in the 70s and 80s with algorithmic, electronic composition software Music Mouse laid the blueprint for most of today’s modern experimental composers. Spiegel is no stranger to conceptual music releases and her work has been lauded by prominent music, arts and technology media worldwide. Her computerised rendition of Johannes Kepler’s ‘Hamonices Mundi’ is the opening track on the world famous 1977 ‘Golden Record’ sent into space on the Voyager Spacecraft.
Pedro Vian & Pierre Bastien’s track ‘Memory’, a short modular synth piece, conjures a sense of baroque harpsichord plucking in a time-warp. Pierre Bastien is a French musician, instrument builder, composer and academic famed for his Meccano ‘musical automaton’ orchestra and collaborations with Robert Wyatt, Pascal Comelade and Jaki Liebezeit. His music has been released on Aphex Twin’s Rephlex Records. Pedro Vian is a Catalan producer, composer and Modern Obscure Music label owner. His music tends to explore synergies between dance music and experimental electronics. He has released three solo albums and there is another one slated for later in 2021.
Lyra Pramuk provides a soulful, energetic, non-verbal vocal snippet entitled ‘CAGE’ which builds and builds before a quick cut-off; a smart way of playing with the form and time constraints in ‘PRSNT’, which encompasses a lot of what made Lyra’s 2020 debut album ‘Fountains’ so revered. Having achieved Best New Music status on Pitchfork, multiple Best Of 2020 wins and high praise from Resident Advisor, TANK Magazine, METAL Mag and The Quietus, plus a very popular FACT mix, Lyra is a must-watch artist for 2021.
A change of pace is offered up by French composer, musician, Frank Ocean and Solange collaborator Christophe Chassol. The chirping, bustling soundscape ‘YA!’ injects momentum and compresses experimental jazz, funk and Stereolab-esque electronica into one short burst. Chassol’s work has been featured in The Guardian, BBC, LesInRocks, Red Bull and plenty more.
The wandering bass and exploratory soundscapes of Nicolas Godin and Pierre Rousseau’s ‘Page Turner’ brings live bass guitar to an intriguing, padded enigmatic world. Nicolas Godin is a globally acclaimed artist chiefly known as one half of French duo Air. He also has an impressive catalogue of solo film scores and studio albums, including 2020’s ‘Concrete & Glass’. Pierre Rousseau is a producer, composer and the co-founder of Paradis, which helped launch Beats in Space Records. His solo debut album ‘Musique Sans Paroles’ was lauded by FACT, Resident Advisor, Ransom Note and Test Pressing.
A fundamental pillar of Barcelona’s countercultural movement in the 1980s, Pascal Comelade has collaborated with PJ Harvey, Robert Wyatt and Faust. His expansive discography spans more than 5 decades and covers a multitude of genres. Pascal’s playful use of instrumentation on the track ‘Segons com’ is a trademark of his exemplary solo productions: The piece ends with a synthesiser interpretation of an ECG machine, perhaps hinting at the ill health of the modern music industry.
A heavily augmented ambient spoken word passage ‘Lifeworld’ from Portland based Visible Cloaks is one of the more stylistically recognisable pieces on the compilation. The beguiling blend of synthesised and living sounds is unmistakably theirs and succeeds in creating a holistic work within a tight timeframe. Highly regarded releases via RVNG INTL have been praised by Pitchfork, Resident Advisor, FACT, CRACK, Artforum and BBC 3’s Late Junction.
Raül Refree is one of the most acclaimed Spanish producers of the last decade. He released music with Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth, reinvented Amália Rodrigues’s fados alongside Lina and worked with innovative artists such as Rosalía or El Niño de Elche, being unwittingly one of the founders of Nuevo Movimiento Flamenco. Refree offers up a soothing acoustic balm with plucked strings and soft layering on ‘Vid2020’, which reflects the range and refinement of his work.
Lucrecia Dalt’s contribution, ‘Cosa’ captures background ambience and manipulates it into a slowly bobbing soundscape, with off-kilter looped clicks and eerie synths. Her 2020 release ‘No era sólida’ on RVNG INTL was one of the standout experimental releases of 2020, gaining huge critical acclaim across the board. Lucrecia’s music is inspired by her previous life as a geotechnical engineer, mixed in with origins in underground techno and experimental music production.
Dominican Republic born, LA-based producer, filmmaker and artist Kelman Duran brings a bouncing modular motif underneath a comedy skit about Schrodinger’s cat aptly titled ‘Dead Cat’. Kelman is known for his politically charged music that blends reggaeton and ambience, which he dubs ‘illegal music’. He is the host of ‘EDITS’ on NTS and has been a resident artist at Somerset House. Kelman has received praise from Boiler Room, Resident Advisor, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, CRACK and The Fader.
Lafawndah’s ‘From Name-less City’ is a blend of Caribbean and middle eastern rhythms with New York club music, which adds a brief sizzling rhythmic piece to the compilation, which is dark and murky but maintains recognisable identity. Lafawndah, aka Yasmine Dubois, is an experimental pop polymath, singer-songwriter and producer. Her recent album ‘The Fifth Season’ is still lapping up plaudits from the likes of Mixmag, CRACK, Pitchfork, Resident Advisor, Loud & Quiet, BOMB, The Vinyl Factory and many more.
The final piece is delivered by Ryuichi Sakamoto whose name alone carries sufficient gravitas to engage an audience. As a founder member of Yellow Magic Orchestra and an Oscar, BAFTA, Grammy and Golden Globe award winning composer, he has been the vanguard of music innovation since the 1970s. Ryuichi provides a thought-provoking moment to reflect, which appears to be an homage to John Cage’s ‘4:33’ simply called ‘Silence’. Perhaps he is making sardonic commentary on music being undervalued, or maybe suggesting that, if we skip music in just 30 seconds, we don’t deserve it at all? It’s a perfect encapsulation of the project, in many ways.
- Laurie Spiegel – ‘Fly By’
- Pedro Vian & Pierre Bastien – ‘Memory’
- Lyra Pramuk – ‘CAGE’
- Chassol – ‘YA!’
- Nicolas Godin & Pierre Rousseau – ‘Page Turner’
- Pascal Comelade – ‘Segons com’
- Visible Cloaks – ‘Lifeworld’
- Raül Refree – ‘Vid2020’
- Lucrecia Dalt – ‘Cosa’
- Kelman Duran – ‘Dead Cat’
- Lafawndah – ‘From Name-less City’
- Ryuichi Sakamoto – ‘Silence’
Proceeds from ‘PRSNT’ will be donated to mental health charity to help fund the fight against the real-life impacts of excessive overconsuming and digital addictions.