Autistici is the musical alter ego of David Newman, who also happens to run the Audiobulb record label. Newman is based in Sheffield, which is a long way away from London, New York, Los Angeles, or even Seattle—where I am writing from. But good music is never confined to geographic locations, as we all know. Even in this global internet world there is a tendency, however, to focus on music from your “local” area. I mention this because the music of Autistici (and that of the Audiobulb label in general) seems practically unknown in the United States. So I am doing my small part to spread the word.
There are three pretty fascinating releases here which I’m addressing. The first two are Autistici recordings titled Detached Metal Voice (Early Works Volume 1) and Slow Temperature (Early Works Volume Two). The third is Autistici Reworked – Resonating Wires. This third entry contains ambient remixes by various artists of some of the later Autistici music.
As Newman himself describes the early material, it is from a time when he was exploring abstract sounds. Here is the “official” explanation of what the album is: “A collection of early works exploring the raw extrusion of the human condition. Bringing together abstract early works, Detached Metal Voice is characterized by a detached narrative, AT&T voiceovers provide threads of psychological association, rhythmic neoclassical arrangements and noise electronic jazz improvisations provide the backdrop.”
Fair enough. Now let’s move on to Volume Two: “Slow Temperature brings together archive material from 2001—2005. The collection features abstract ambience, a focus on micro-sounds and digital sculpting of audio from everyday objects.”
In all honesty—as those descriptions clearly show—this is music that is a little difficult to describe. To sum things up, though, the most obvious word people would use would probably be “dissonant.” That term is pretty loaded, though, and does not really do justice to the music at hand. Just be ready for something a little less melodic than the “usual” fare.
I remember the first time I heard John Coltrane really “go out there,” and wondering how (or why) anyone would listen to music as disconcerting as that was. Jeez—that was a live version of “My Favorite Things” recorded in 1963! Then I heard Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz, and even though all of my friends hated it, I began to understand the ideas behind it all.
As Newman himself says, his appreciation for music was a growth process. It took me a while for me to understand why John Cage’s 4’33” is so cool. Although many people think it is all about silence, the piece is actually all about the audience. The discomfort and rustling of papers for four minutes and thirty-three seconds is the “song.”
Yes it is conceptual, and yes one could call it pretentious. But it is pretty damned fascinating when you understand its real point. The real point of the early works of Autistici? Despite my earlier comments, the music is not really that dissonant at all. In fact, I quite enjoyed both albums.
The one that kind of threw me for a loop, though, was the first one I actually listened to: the various artists collection Autistici Reworked. I have never been the biggest fan of remixes, but these are pretty impressive. It was a totally bizarre experience for me to hear these pretty, ambient pieces by a number of David Newman’s associates next to the early Autistici discs. Quite a difference indeed.
I commend David Newman for what he is doing with the Audiobulb label, and it seems that the basic description (besides the early Autistici recordings) are what most of us would term “ambient” music. Tired of the “same old same old?” Then try something truly unique. Visit the Audiobulb label site and discover a whole new world of music.