01 The Voloptulist
02 840 Seconds Over
This short (21 minute) CD features two tracks that The New Blockaders, Thurston Moore, and Jim O'Rourke share. Having done some reading, it turns out that Moore and O’Rourke are involved with Sonic Youth. While I don’t know much about them, I know enough that it is quite a shock to see members from that band involved in an experimental noise project. The title of the album is Voloptulist, which according to the CD booklet means “one who is ‘moved’ by voloptulous women, rubenesque, say as well as anything in life which is not unlike such a creation.” How does this relate to the two tracks presented? I have no idea. So what of the music then?
Both The Voloptulist and 840 Seconds Over would for lack of a better description fall into the category of noise, especially as there is no real “musical” approach to speak of. The first (and longer) track, The Voloptulist, starts with a buzzing hum which sounds almost exactly the same as when someone has their guitar plugged into the amp and has just left it sitting there. Had this noise changed or perhaps even gone away, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but somehow it lasts for the entire 14 minutes of the opening song. Various degraded, scraping, and somewhat machine-like sounds mingle overtop of the hum for the duration of the track save a couple moments at the very starting and end. While the samples might be okay, I don’t like the way in which they have been used. There’s no depth to them, no bass; the sounds comes across as very shallow and empty feeling. The best description for the production of the samples would be if someone played something through their stereo and you had a microphone in the room and recorded it. All the deeper aspects and bass would be lost and this is how this comes across to me. It almost has the feel of a live session where someone did just record what the artists were playing (840 Seconds Over has this feel too, but more on that later). All that aside, the song just has nothing that captured me. There are no interesting parts that I want to hear again and that demand a re-listening.
Unfortunately the second song, 840 Seconds Over, isn’t much better. The first 1:45 or so isn’t that bad; the samples are used in a slightly more interesting fashion and it feels like it might build up to something good. Just as it gets to the best part, 840 Seconds Over switches to what is basically complete randomness of noises. Sporadic drumming, off-key, disordered guitar notes, and similar samples that have been previously used give the track a very improvisational feel that is helped even more by the sound quality already discussed. For some of you, this might be musical bliss; for myself, this is completely uninteresting. I generally prefer my noise to be extremely intense such as Merzbow, or contain heavier, darker, and more crushing frequencies more akin to those generally found in power electronics; this is neither.
While I am sure there is an audience for The Voloptulist out there, that audience does not consist of myself. I truly gave this CD a chance too. I listened to the two tracks more than I probably should have thinking there might be some breakthrough for me, but that never happened; this album has just completely missed the mark. While everyone has different tastes, I think the audience for The Voloptulist will be a very small niche group.