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Nothing's Definite 

Slurring sound with a Beatsystem

Wednesday, Feb 25 1998
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BEATSYSTEM
Beatsystem (Emit)

The name suggests everything tedious about new electronic music: robotic repetition, formulaic compositions, dead ideas stitched together and shocked into spasmodic, zombified life. But this comes from Emit, the curious English label specializing in computer-driven music whose pulses and passions derive from less precise machines, the kind that breathe. So it's not too surprising to find these beats stirring only occasionally, unpredictably, like piles of raked leaves in a fitful breeze.

The system in question remains centered in the considerable musical imagination of Derek Pierce, who creates, manipulates and arranges almost everything here, and whose particular talent is drone creation. Using sometimes recognizable sounds or sound approximations (insect chirp, organ tones, people singing), Pierce builds recombinant aural clusters that converge and drift apart like banked clouds. At irregular intervals, a blues guitar or spoken voice floats across the backdrop like an airplane, serving less as focal point than laser pointer, directing attention to some other cumulus of shifting timbre and color. Oddly flattened firecracker bursts punctuate the opening of "For Pierre," and their sonic traces trail on through the murky soundwash. On "Invade Areas Where Nothing's Definite," a plain voice intones the title and is instantly separated into its component vibrations and overtones, like a shape sketched in iron filings dragged apart by competing magnets.

Ultimately more fascinating than felt, Pierce's music nevertheless engages on a much more dynamic level than any electronica since Emit's Carl Stone release last year. At its most disconcerting and intimate, it could pass for personal.

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