Sometimes I think it’s best not to read the press materials for a new album too closely. Seth Graham, an experimental electronic musician from Dayton, Ohio, has made some claims in the PR for his new record, Gasp, that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. The album comes out next Friday via Orange Milk, which he runs with Keith Rankin of Giant Claw, and among other things Graham has said that it was inspired by the “playfulness” of composers such as spectralist Gerard Grisey and minimalist Julius Eastman, who “explore teasing, lighthearted audio elements.” As much as I love the work of both those composers, I don’t hear many “teasing, lighthearted audio elements” in their music—I can only conclude that Graham and I have very different senses of humor. Fortunately the music on Gasp is good enough that I don’t much care if I understand what he’s trying to say about it—it’s been growing on me in leaps and bounds.
I do wish Graham had also said something about how he made this music—as things stand, I’m assuming it’s built from synthesized sounds and samples. Much of the source material, whether synthesized or sampled, seems to come from orchestral records—horns and strings snort, spasm, and snarl across the album’s ten tracks (which total a succinct 28 minutes) in splattered, chopped-up, twisted blobs. Graham definitely has a playful side: he likes absurdist titles (“Binary Tapioca,” “Flower Cheese”), exploding tone colors, and neck-snapping shifts in mood and melody. He sounds like a child of glitch who’s applied that aesthetic’s jumbled flow of ideas to the materials of musique concrete instead of the typical glib palette of digital errors. It can seem as though he’s simply put the brief snippets that comprise each track through a punishing cycle in a pinball machine, but each time I listen to Gasp, his composerly instincts become more apparent to me.
Below you can check out the opening track, “My Desire for You Is to Stop Being a Fuck Wad,” which is a bit more fluid than the rest of the album. Graham headlines the Hideout on Wednesday evening, with Sug and a duo of Nick Meryhew (of Mocrep) and Jen Hill.
Nate Wooley, Battle Pieces 2 (Relative Pitch)
Sam Pluta, Broken Symmetries (Carrier)
Spunk, Still Eating Ginger Bread for Breakfast (Rune Grammofon)
Various artists, Oté Maloya: The Birth of Electric Maloya on Réunion Island, 1975-1986 (Strut)
Dante Boon, Düsseldorf Recital (Rhizome.s)