“Rheomodes” C42
(Oxtail Recordings)

Right now I’m working on a project that will allow these words that I’m typing to generate sounds and visuals just by interacting with the encoded data present on the internet. Hopefully by the time this review posts, when you click on it, you will be treated to a vast array of inhuman weirdness that can only be created by the interface of my words with cold, impersonal ones and zeroes. Let’s see if this thing works, OK? Tell me in the comments. I’m all ears.

Long Distance Poison, the duo of Erica Bradbury and Nathan Cearley, has beaten me to it, though. Whereas my expression emanates from my brain in the form of printed language, and the idea of seeing what a computer program did with that when translating it to sound and vision would undoubtedly be cool, Bradbury and Cearley probably have a better idea, knock out that boring old stupid middleman of the English language and get straight to the trippy sonics and visuals. Because that’s what all you acid-heads out there want any. Sound. Visuals. You’re all insatiable monsters.

Defensive (and totally non-serious) digression aside, “Rheomodes is where sound controls image and image controls sound,” a release in three “parts” or stages that confronts the limits of programming in composing – or is that the limits of human input to composing within a computerized medium? You can listen to Rheomodes; you can watch video documentation of the three tracks on Rheomodes as they are being produced, a process “using intuition, pseudo-randomness and self-generating systems”; or you could have attended a live event at Printed Matter in New York on March 31, but unless you’ve got a time machine, you’ll never be able to see this third incarnation of Rheomodes. There’s no excuse to have missed it if you were in New York – I kept bothering you with reminders for it on Facebook, social media cockroach that I am.

But here on Cassette Gods, sometimes you have to strip away the ephemera and straight to that magnetic tape housed in that hard plastic shell. That’s what I’m going to do, because you’re here for the music. And what better way to celebrate experimental electronics than with the sounds that Rheomodes makes when you play it? Over the course of its three tracks, the programming, prodded by its various internal and external stimuli, is remarkably listenable, falling somewhere on the accessibility spectrum in between “albums that wrote themselves” Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP by Aphex Twin and Silver Session for Jason Knuth by Sonic Youth. But of course it sounds nothing like either of those – Rheomodes is a dream for electronic zoners, a tape meant for headphones, and if you can stand to open your eyes and actually perceive – read, “see” – the music’s visual representation, you’re likely to find that what’s on screen is remarkably similar to what was just playing behind your eyelids. I think for Long Distance Poison, that’s about as important a win as they’ll get – Erica and Nate are standing at a podium, in front of a crowd of people on an aircraft carrier somewhere, with a “Mission Accomplished” banner boldly emblazoned behind them, smiling and basking in the applause. This was totally worth the effort.

And yeah, if you have the tape, you can see the videos. See the album art up there? They look like that, but in motion, and for 42 minutes. And if you’re now at the end of this review and nothing’s happening on screen, then my experiment has failed. Send your angry emails to helpdesk@cassettegods.com. Just kidding, that’s not a real email address. Angry comments below will be fine.

Long Distance Poison
Oxtail Recordings

--Ryan Masteller