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The Terminal Symphony

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Album Review

The rhythmic whirring pulses that begin Jeff Witscher's 2011 album for Type under the Rene Hell name anchor the kind of arrangement, scattered and scuzzed with feedback as the individual elements are, that calls to mind everything from Steve Reich to the Aphex Twin and early Seefeel to any number of the rhythm-heavy blasts that have slipped under the pop radar to become hooks in the 21st century. Above all, there's a sense of momentous beginnings throughout "Chamber Forte," something suggesting that the formal orchestral elements referred to by the album and song titles aren't simply jokes but the reason why it all sounds the way it does, a formalism of noise, drone, and echo that doesn't so much blast as lock into a new shape, a structured chaos that melts away into soft, distant tones not just by means of drawing contrast but because the song moves naturally toward that point. This sense of specific focus continues throughout the album: "Lighthouse Marvel," with its multi-part drone/sparkle subsiding into a quieter but still gently propulsive synth loop that anchors a shimmering shudder of further notes, ends up creating a new overall rhythm, while "E.S. des Grauens in Fifths" packs in synth loops, a swirling exultance, and more besides. "Cello Suite No. 3" sounds nothing like one, all bubbling bursts and other cryptic noises, but "Adagio for String Portrait" ends the album on a truly calm and lovely note, string synth and horn parts turned into a calm, elegiac theme that could almost be a piece designed to honor the dead. Other moments like the short, cryptic bedroom minimal pop of sorts of "Quiet Detail Muse" and the slow rise/fall flow of "Detuned Clarinet," moving into a soothing hum, bring out a generally more serene side as well. There's almost a feeling of installation sound art throughout — a descendant of something like Music for Airports that really is meant to be heard, if not in an airport, then in some strange location featuring the kind of art piece on the front of the album, a sonic complement to deconstructed ideas of the instrument.

The Terminal Symphony, Rene Hell
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