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Experimental Music Review: "Tales From The Algorithm" by Dragon & Jettenbach

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.

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Overall Impressions

Dragon & Jettenbach’s Tales From The Algorithm challenges my ears in a way that forces my brain to stay engaged. It’s a unsettling, disconcerting and shadowy listening experience that took a hold of me and shook me. The intense variations in tone, timbre and auditory sensation produce an insectile, mechanical feeling that permeates the album. I get lost in the variation and energy of this hissing, seething, crackling sonic experience.

The way in which Tales From The Algorithm explores the micro-tonality and variety within sound is a major draw for me. It uses a palette of distorted, twisted and harsh sounds to create music that is palpable. It has a texture and volume that gives an impression of tactile sensation, as if I could feel it grating against my skin and rubbing it raw. At first, it seems uniform but the longer one listens, the more its timbres and tones begin to vary and diverge.

Another element to Tales From The Algorithm that interests me are the moments where one can discern musical sounds, rather than noise and hiss. These ephemeral, ethereal notes linger on the edges of one’s awareness like ghostly presences. I find those lost musical passages melancholy in their very delicacy, as they contrast with the seething sibilance and ominous weight that surrounds them. There’s something achingly desolate about the distance of the notes as they drift past.

I enjoy the uncompromising nature of what Dragon & Jettenbach are doing on this album. It makes no gestures toward dumbing anything down or simplifying sounds to attract listeners. The sonic landscape is pure in its vision and follows through in keeping the execution equally pure. It may not be for everyone, but I respect the approach that was taken by the creators in pursuing their interests.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Reverse Entropy” begins as a hissing sonic rush with shape and volume pours into the track. A cavernous, almost vocal bass and a continual dense, sharp scratching sound with a shrill quality to it. It parts the haze and flow of the background noise that fills the track with an airy flow while distant metallic noises sweep above the lurking bass shadow. I appreciate the haunted, diaphanous auditory environment with its hovering sense of threat.

The deep, unsettling scratching has become a pattern, a hypnotic sound that is made more prominent by the rushing susurration of sound that wraps around it. A low synth noise continues on below the breath of wind. A writhing knot of darkness moves to fill the listener with a premonition of worse to come as it waits on the periphery of the other audio elements.

Constant background static grows in power over the weight below it and a buzzing, electrical sound moves in tight, incised lines to commence “Straylight” A soft tapping skips over the surface of the music before fragile piano softly moves into the electric buzz, the quick tapping and the shadow hiding below it. I appreciate the subtlety of the piano drifting like a distant ghost, little more than a bare impression of sound.

Skittering sounds trip through the track while the piano begins to take on form, a distinct pattern of fragile notes, lost in the buzzing and static.The piano notes feel contained by the other sounds. A ringing, equally distant auditory impression touches the music over the rough buzz and steady flow of agitated noise.

The far off, delicate piano adds a sensation of tenuous connection to a fading light, as in the “stray light” from a source that’s hard to find in the hiss, buzz and scratch. Only for a brief moment can one hear the piano clearly before it dies out.

“Summoning Shai-Hulud” begins with aggressive, shifting clouds of grating sound moving in a thick rush that subtly shifts as the barest hints of higher noises linger in the background. I find the weighty impression given by the endless rushing guttural wall of noise quite effective in creating a sense of unease. Echoing voices wander far in the background, obscured by the fierce rush. Musical notes rise, along with a hollow rush that fills the track behind the grating auditory screen. The deep, hollow sound flows on while a buzzing vocal noise whispers in each ear.

A vague sensation of musical notes is given while the long sounds extend in a dark line beneath the breathy, rough flow of sound. A steady thump, like the “thumpers” from Frank Herbert’s "Dune" cuts in and out while disconnected, distorted voices echo out into the background. There’s confusion, a cacophonous rambling and shouting in the distance, impossible to make out and unsettling because of it. An auditory storm washes across the track’s surface while a barely perceptible metallic ringing shifts at the edges of hearing. The whole track feels uneasy and ominous.

A far off rumbling forms a low hum below a soft-edged sonic swell to open “Needlecast Into Innenin.” The sound grows in power to form a dense, jagged element with a circular feeling along wth more electronic phasing and buzzing. The hole in the music is deep and expansive while its edges crackle with electricity in a away that I find intriguing. A howl of wind sweeps out while cries of distant pain echo through the buzz and the crackle.

This segment adds the feeling of a terrifying awareness on the edge of consciousness. The seething feeling is restrained, but still threatening while the guttural sizzle and crackle of current adds another sonic element. An endless bass void yawns roughly in the centre of all of the other elements as howls of barely audible disembodied vocal sounds only increase the feelings of disturbing portent before the track ends.

"Dirangesept” begins with audio snow, scratchy and hissing, which comes sweeping in like a rushing train as echoing mechanical, chittering noises spread through the track. It is also full of a persistent ringing sound that continues in the background. Battering, drum-like sounds add some shape before everything decays again, rattling and echoing out into emptiness.

The track is shattered into fragments while a lost voice adds a sense of terrible disconnection and confusion over the dangerously seething sounds. The effect of the vocal sound is one that I am drawn to as it makes the track feel alive with threat.

Random numbers seem spoken by a machine gone mad, distorting and bleeding into the music while everything heaves and twists. This track is rife with buzzing and banging, growling and bending while the continued background ringing lingers at the edge of my perception.

The indistinct sound of gentle voices singing softly opens “Penfield Mood Organ.” The vocal sample fades in and out through the whispering, static-filled whorls of sound. Solid flares of heavy, clotted noise push in and decay away before carrying out into longer passages.

The track is full of whispering voices that feel inchoate and disembodied while a triumphant, rampant burst of sound blares and disappears, powerful and even majestic. The sibilance goes on continuously as a dark flow again rises below it to give an impression of dominance. The soft whispers and ethereal, trembling background contributes a reverential feeling before all is silent.

Conclusion

Tales From The Algorithm takes no prisoners in creating a powerful, even disturbing listening experience. It is a heaving, hissing journey across shattered, textural and jagged soundscapes that left me feeling introspective and lacerated. I have a lot of respect for what Dragon & Jettenbach are doing on this album, even when it leaves me feeling unsure of what to think about it.

© 2022 Karl Magi

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