In many ways, the trajectory of music since the 20th century has been one of questioning the boundaries between man and machine, the line between them a site of perpetual contestation. From the utter human degradation of the Second World War, composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Milton Babbitt looked to machines for redemption, bringing laboratory pretensions to their compositional practice. Later, Kraftwerk attempted to become the machines themselves; their influence subsequently spreading through the world like a computer virus, to Tokyo, Detroit, Lagos, and beyond. In the ensuing years, rhythm synthesisers increasingly supplanted drummers, sequencers quantized music into robotic rhythms, and sampling innovations contested the very distinction between live and synthesised elements.
Suso Flores’ 0009 – 03 Audio feels like the latest link in that long and varied tradition. It’s a mechanised meditation on machine-life, an album of resolutely metallic aesthetics.
Occasionally there are elements which seem suggestive of organic origins: on ‘11-4 audio,’ shrill interjections to the mix masquerade as vocals; the whirling textures underlying ‘009 3 – Audio,’ bear semblances of humanity, sounding like the distanced murmuring of a crowd. However, in each case, the impression swiftly dissipates, revealing itself as a mere projection by the listener, the product of an anthropomorphising instinct, perhaps even of the desire to recognise humanity in the midst of machinery.
Even those track names appear derived from automated authorship, their titles akin to those arising from the corruption of computer files. And, much like such files, the contents here too have a predilection towards chaos. Album opener ‘0008 54 – Audio,’ sees brittle metallic elements pinging off one another, propelled by the delay effects which saturate the mix. While it does eventually find a defined form, the integrity is only temporary. Tracks are frequently ripped apart from the inside, sequenced melodies set into motion only to be fed through a filter and abruptly fractured.
Such contrivances are to no small extent reflections of Flores’ favoured music-making techniques. A self-proclaimed tinkerer of toys, his methods favour hardware over production programmes. In his bedroom studio, Suso Flores rips apart cheap instruments and re-circuits them, redefining their sonic possibilities in the process. The resultant album is an admirable testament to such tampering, filled with alien and interesting textures.
In the liner notes for his 1961 opus, the Electronic Sonata, George Russell remarked that the piece “is meant to suggest that man, in the face of encroaching technology, must confront technology and attempt to humanize it”. 0009 3 – Audio strikes me a similar such an attempt, and a corrective against the assumed immutability of machines. Flores confronts technology, opening it up, enhancing it, exposing it to his machinations. While the project might be defined by synthetic structures, it is clear that it is Flores who is in control.
Released August 18, 2017