You might have spotted Rashad Becker’s name in the credits to one of the more than 1,200 recordings he’s mastered at Berlin’s Dubplates & Mastering, an operation established by the label and production duo Basic Channel back in the mid-90s. Since then Becker has set the standard for meticulously mastered vinyl, whether it’s electronic dance, dub, or experimental music. Last year he stepped forward as a sound artist in his own right with the mysterious, sui generis Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. 1 (Pan). Becker has said he created the music while envisioning some new, unknown species.
In an interview published in the online electronic-music magazine Fact, Becker claimed that all of the source material was derived from recordings of a filing cabinet. “It’s a very fun live instrument,” he said in the piece, “but it also reeks a little bit of novelty act.” I’m a bit skeptical about this assertion, but wherever the sounds may have originated, what turns up on the record is deeply electronic-sounding. At the same time just about all of the music sounds vocal-like in one twisted way or another: abstract and elusive squiggles, moans, and gurgles functioning as synthetic modes of communication—a language none of us can speak or understand. At times the record reminds me of the earliest computer music from the 1960s, electronic tones and flowering harmonies popping up from every corner and moving in all directions. But Becker’s sonic bouquet is decidedly drab, though none of it is dull. Thanks to Becker’s excellence at mastering records, every tone cuts with razor-sharp clarity; the sonic field is prickly but full-bodied. You can check out a piece from the record called “Dances III” below.
Becker will be making his Chicago debut on Tuesday at a free concert at International House, located on the campus of the University of Chicago, in a concert presented by the school’s radio station, WHPK. Also performing are New York percussionist and sound installation artist Eli Keszler and Joshua Abrams’s Natural Information Society.
All Included, Reincarnation of a Free Bird (Stone Floor)
Leo Genovese, Seeds (Palmetto)
Kayhan Kalhor and Erdal Erzincan, Kula Kulluk Yakisir Mi (ECM)
Per Nørgård, Symphonies 1 & 8 (Dacapo)
Mara Rosenbloom Quartet, Songs From the Ground (Fresh Sound New Talent)