Words by Sebastian Weikart
Technology had a big impact on composing music since the 80's. First the arrival of affordable samplers kicked off an avalanche of new genres and styles, and a completely new way of composing music out of bits, bobs and scraps of previously recorded pieces.
Later on, software programs and sequencers made the process of composing music much more intuitive and accessible to non-studied people and bedroom producers. Arguably, this second wave of technical revolution in music, which started in the early 90's, kicked off an ever changing landscape of sound and rhythm variations that is evolving until now, with no sign of respite.
Icarus are a production duo from the UK who have been around since 1998, thus started at a time when Drum & Bass delivered some of its most elaborate and inspiring works in the form of landmark albums such as Photek's Modus Operandi and 4Hero's Two Faces. With Fake Fish Distribution, Icarus are sonically very much in the tradition of the former. Intricate and detailed percussive loops are creating a texture of permanent restlessness and will let the inclined arm chair listener either joyfully fidget or teeter around. Ambient drones, noises and reverse samples are providing the back drop to the drums and percussions that have been sampled in best Drum & Bass fashion from old blues and jazz records, arranged in a way you would expect from a mad free jazz drummer run wild.
Being presented as one big piece of music, with each of the tracks linking seamlessly, a more extravagant tendency develops during the second half. Clearly definable rhythms are being exchanged for post-industrial percussions, cinematic string drones and electro-acoustical torturing of instruments and prepared piano-esque parts, it is therefore also rubbing shoulders with the likes of Demdike Stare, Kemialliset Ystävät, or the ever looming uber-figure John Cage.
What makes FFD a remarkable work is the fact that it is actually being released and distributed in 1000 different variations – therefore the whole work has to be seen as an album of 8000 songs! I could very well imagine that there might be a much dancier version of the first track in store, for instance. As soon as one version has been (digitally) delivered to the buyer, it will be destroyed. In which way and to what extend the actual variants are different from each other can unfortunately not be judged. However, the sheer vision and scope of this work must be admired – and the fact that the two composers introduced a whole new level of technology in the creation process. Rather then using a randomized music composition technique such as John Cage did in his 'Music for Changes', or using an algorithm-based generative music as coined by Brian Eno and Steve Reich, each variation is based on decisive parameters being set for a software controlling the various components.
FFD is enjoyable as a purely intellectual experience and as a remarkable statement how art and technology as well as new paradigms on music sale and distribution join up to create new innovative products.
Grab a unique slice of history on their website before all 1000 are purchased and destroyed - http://icarus.nu