Wolfram – X

Posted: 28 July 2016 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , ,

Monotype Records – mono102 – June 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been eleven years since Wolfram last released an album. But the gap between albums no longer seems to be such an issue as it was: the industry has changed and now that, beyond the mainstream, at least, labels have significantly less power, artists are generally free to release material when they’re ready. Or when they can find an outlet. Or when they have the time outside the day-job, or the funds to do it. There’s no long-winded explanation for the space between Wolfram’s releases, and ultimately, it has no bearing on the simple fact that there’s an album.

Said album begins with a long wash of sound which resembles the sea, swelling and swelling to a wash of fizz with ‘W:X:swarm’. From amidst the pink and white noise frequencies emerge small sonic details: a buzz, barely audible and yet distracting. In a sense, the importance of minutiae and detail is a key theme of the album. Small and seemingly insignificant in themselves, these features become impossible to unnoticed once they’ve caught the attention. So, the fact each track is a minute longer than the one before may not be significant in itself, particularly given that the tracks segue into one another to create on continuous track, Yet the designations of the individual tracks to correspond with sonic shifts between each passage and the increasing running times are indicative of an internal logic which overarches the album as a whole.

Beyond X (the album) being part of ‘a wider project consisting of miniCD-R, CD and audiocassettes on a special box, produced in limited runs of just 25 copies (budget is a factor, but there’s also a cult appeal in rendering work clandestine and unavailable to the masses), the significance of the album and individual track titles is not clear. But then, mystery is also part of the appeal. And of course, X is that unknown, indefinable quality.

‘exploded view’ is perhaps the strongest example of Wolfram’s interest in contrast and his ability to forge tonal conflict. Crackling static first brings light interference to tranquil drones, slowly but surely growing in intensity and volume, until an angry, angular, sawing buzz all but engulfs the soft tones beneath. ‘N:xizhe’ is a dark, sinister piece which rumbles and groans, distant inhuman sounds evoke fearful sensations as they rise and fall to silence again over a sustained, low drone. And, indeed, there is a definite progression and trajectory through the six-track sequence, with each piece being darker and more threatening, culminating in the bleak ‘Secret Humans’. Insect skitters flit across a low, undulating drone, straining mechanoid hums and grinds labour amidst the seething swarm. It isn’t human, but alien, burrowing into the brain through the ears and disturbing the cranial cavities and the ravines of the mind by pouring doubt and discomfort into every channel. It’s far from simple, but it’s highly effective.




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