Review: Nathan Corder – System of Choice (self-released, Apr 3)

I first encountered the music of Oakland-based composer Nathan Corder when (almost exactly two years ago) I heard Anaconda, a duo recording—Corder on electronics and fellow Oakland musician Tom Weeks on alto saxophone—that’s one of the most violent, volatile documents of improvised music I’ve ever heard. On that release, Corder’s contributions were brash and abrasive, their shuddering and cracking providing much of the movement for the improvisations, so I suppose I expected more of that approach on System of Choice, the first solo release I’ve heard from him. Instead, the music on this album draws power not from immediacy, but instead its deliberate and enrapturing construction. Sounds are mercilessly processed and manipulated into an array of stereo-spacial objects for Corder to meticulously arrange and sequence, creating dizzyingly kinetic sonic events that constantly interlock and overlap. This is that sort of extreme computer music whose complexity can be intimidating; when I first listened to System of Choice I was frequently reminded of the overwhelming yet awestruck confusion I experienced during my initial encounter with Sun Pandämonium. But that’s also what makes it so enjoyable to listen to, and whether Corder’s mind-bending auditory architecture manifests as eviscerating glitch hailstorms, deconstructed electronica, or soft mechanical ambience like a robot’s final sigh, there are always countless layers and details to decipher. Repeated listens required.

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