Gruenrekorder – Gruen186 – 1st February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

This is perhaps one of the strangest, most far-out and outright strange releases I’ve encountered in quite some time, and that’s certainly saying something. Slotmachine exists as an on-line project run by musician/artist Achim Zepezauer.

The press release explains that ‘online the user can combine three tracks by 13 different artists with different instrumentations, either hand sorted or completely randomized from the 158 recordings. Every artist provides at least ten tracks to generate from, which leads to the theoretical possibility of 1 billion different combinations’.

Curious, I spent some time messing about at the Slotmachine website in an attempt to get a handle on how it actually works. It looks like a slot machine. You can spin each of the three rows to change the track, and you can mute one, two, or even all three – but for best effect, spinning in three random pieces simultaneously is the way to go.

In some respects, Slotmachine offers an extension of Brion Gysin’s permutational poems, which involved the rearranging the words of a single phrase in every possible arrangement or permutation. This could be achieved by systematically moving the first word to the end of the row and moving each subsequent word one place to the left, hence A B C D E becomes first B C D E A, then C D E A B, and continuing until all of the variations had been exhausted. From a five-word phrase, a total of 119 new phrases, plus the original, could be created.

Zepezauer’s approach is less systematic – by which mean it appear to be completely random and arbitrary – but the one-word title attributed to each 45-second composition means each piece which utilises all three ‘rows’ has a three-word title which can be permuted. For example, ‘Cowshed’ by Simon Whetham, running alongside ‘Neck’ by Achim Zepezauer, and ‘Rupture’ by Jérôme Noetinger yields a track entitled ‘Cowshed Neck Rupture’ is a three-way collaboration by Whetham, Zepezauer, and Noetinger. But of course, what Zepezauer adds is the sonic element, which renders these permutational works multisensory, particularly when interacting on-line. Admittedly, touch is limited to mouse-work or keypads and you can’t taste or smell it, but it’s still pretty engaging.

The vinyl release on Gruenrekorder documents the project with a selection from 13 artists and 158 recordings, that offered a possibility of 3,944,312 tracks. Whittled down to just 30 choice cuts, it gives a flavour of the audio aspect of the project, if not of the interactive experience. And these short, snippety pieces are intriguingly varied, the layers forming experimental works spanning ambient, free jazz, hop-hop, dark electronica, and spacey Krautrock – and pretty much everything else in between. At times jarring, jolting, discordant, woozy, with clashing and complimentary sound works merging to create a single piece, it’s not always readily accessible, or even listenable. Then again, when things combine, as they do, to create (fleeting) moments of mystical musical magic, it’s truly wonderful. With each piece being so short, it’s difficult to find a flow or rhythm: instead, you find yourself swept along on a rollercoaster of lo-fi oddball weirdness and unusually eclectic hybrids. This is very much an integral part of the charm, the appeal, and the enjoyment.

And it’s an enjoyment that the record only captures the corner of, since the online-slotmachine has the ability to continuously grow and contains at the date of the vinyl release (February 1st, 2019) four more artists and a total of 225 recordings, providing some 11,390,625 possible titles. Even with audio clips being only 45 seconds long, that’s a lot of hours pissing about online before you’re explored the project fully.

AA

Slotmachine

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