Review: Electric Indigo – Morpheme (, Oct 19)

When Florian Hecker and Oswald Berthold’s proto–net label began making the material released during its original 1999–2003 tenure available for name-your-price download on Bandcamp a few years ago, I could never have imagined that we would soon be getting new stuff on the imprint as well. But now the glorious, esoteric tradition extreme computer music lives on in the 2020s through this established channel as well as countless more recent sources. It’s somehow fitting that the single phrase from which every single heavily abstracted sound in this new work by Susanne Kirchmayr (as Electric Indigo) was drawn is “To let noise into a system is a kind of fine art in both cybernetic terms and in terms of making music, too.” Live coding, software-based processing and manipulation, digital concrète and synthesis, and other techniques one often sees in this area are all approaches that consist of both precise interaction on the part of the artist and volatile unpredictability on the part of the “instrument”—in other words, no matter how meticulous and antiseptic a piece of computer music is, some “noise” must always be “let… into the system.” This is certainly the case for Morpheme, the audio portion of the Vienna DJ and sound artist’s 2015 multimedia performance of the same name; the swarms of microscopic, granular textures are jagged and rough-hewn, full of cloying artifacts and viscous remnants from the organic context out of which they were ripped, sometimes surgically, other times brutally. Despite these delectable, messy imperfections, and the strict limitations of using only a single speech fragment as a basis for something much longer, Morpheme is staggeringly complex and diverse, jumping from ersatz prog-electronic to formless insect-chatter glitch storm to minimal industrial techno stomp over the course of its final three tracks (“SI”, “TM”, and “EEM”, respectively). Even if one only looks at this and Kirchmayr’s LP from last year on MEGO, Ferrum, it’s clear the future is bright. Whoops! Nope, sorry, it was just my laptop screen. But I have faith.