Control Room Secondee
hose of you who read my review last week of Noze’s fantastic Craft Sounds and Visions know that we’re desperate for interesting material here at Stylus. Christ, we’re pathetic. We have blind spots. As such, we’re willing to go back to the vaults, to swivel-head to last year’s better releases that we somehow overlooked. Go ahead, overthink it. We’re so hip we ain’t swayed by how unhip it is to cover records we missed. I’d like to ask John Leland, or maybe Ishmael Reed, ‘cause I’m obviously all about the transference of hip. Consider it a preoccupation for January.
In this effort, I might take the next several weeks to point to these flaws. But then there’s the upcoming Cedars record. And then there’ll be something else that steals my time the week thereafter, maybe Isolee’s forthcoming odds and sods comp. Maybe that quintessential pint-of-sprite effort by the Arctic Monkeys. Who can say. Something will arrive.
Still, in the meantime, I’m duty-bound to tell you about the gloriously in-incandescent record by Audio Ovni, Control Room Secondee. My immense salary at Stylus precludes me from personal voicing; I’m all about the community. As such, I’m here to tell you this is Stylus’ newest staff-wide find. We can’t find enough off-the-cuff witticisms for its dim, toxic-skeletal Kid A atmospherics. Or maybe this is all bullshit. Maybe I’m a lone maniac.
Either way, the duo of Jeff Press and Eric Liebman form Audio Ovni, whose 2005 release, like Noze’s, is worth our late words here. Unlike that French jazz-tech duo, there’s little time for celebratory sax sqwonking. Instead, there’s ambient nihilism at work in Control Room Secondee, a quiet stunt of atmospheric electronics, delayed sounds, unrecognizable lyrics, and the steel-heart pulse of androgynistic malaise. I hesitate to throw them out, the omnipresent reflection point for much of tech-pop’s landscape, but you’re with me: there’s some Radiohead in the pale wind of this dystopia.
But that’s far too facile a reference, though it’s a bound to lead many to write this album off as derivative. To look past Audio Ovni simply for their similarities to Oxford’s post-aught fracturists is to miss the sophisticated bloodlines in the duo’s past. Audio Ovni is more tactile in their dissection of Eno’s blueprint and more willing to drift and return. This ain’t no one-trick pony. They allow the listener time to enter their cottoned symphonics and to leave without notice. There are no choruses to speak of, nothing that secures a track to natural progress. Instead, Press hovers over the duo’s billowed din at random will. His lyrics are almost completely indecipherable; it’s the fleshy cadence of his voice that’s important. You can fade out and recommit yourself to these songs at your discretion. Follow along with a lyric sheet or content yourself to the buttery simmer of Press’ operatic tenor.
Musically, Audio Ovni hum through soft, gristled static and almost inaudible synthlines, tied to the ground by only the softest drum-machine thump. Their music recombines the summer-lake ambience of Fennesz into the acoustic-thromp of Julian Fane and Type Records’ artists like Khonnor. “City-State,” for example, is uncluttered and sterilized, a revolving guitar line and lilting synthwork backing perhaps Press’ clearest vocal refrains. Vaguely anhedonic, the quiet rebuke of the tread-upon, Press summons the fate of the smashed bug, tiny, tremored, and now pressed clean of pulp.
On the other side of the fence is the garbaged vocal of “Couture.” Press swoons in circling chimes and static, but it’s the reach of his voice during the chorus (“Gloooooo-oooooo-wing”) that marks its earthless beauty. As with most of the record, there’s an intangible movement at work. The inner-ear is drained, balance is lost, and the result, drugged stumble and concrete scratch, gives these scars and this roughened skin its glow. These are the moments when you wish Control Room Secondee were one breathless MP3 unmarked by number—or perhaps a lonely snowstroll broken into arias. As with the fractured polynaise of “Design a Tease” or the tribal ghost-chant of “Traffic Light Coordination,” Audio Ovni creates funeral dirges out of the bytes of misplaced digitalia. These are the hymns of a dig without dirt, a time when we’ll lock ourselves in capsules and balloon into eternal grifterism. Thieves, vegetarian chefs, and shape-shifters in us all then, space oddities without helmets or craft. After all, Audio Ovni can’t possibly be made for us in 2005. It’s so crude and strange. No, it’s far easier to project and wait: Control Room Secondee will greet us in the soon.