Thursday, 14 May 2015

Review: Ben Zimmerman, The Baltika Years

This little electronica column review fell out of the latest Wire because someone else had already done a longer one. Thought I'd post it up here as it's quite a special release. Video below.

Ben Zimmerman
The Baltika Years
Software DL / 2×LP
With this archive release, Joel Ford and Dan Lopatin's Software have found something that reaches right into the core of the label's interest in the curiously soulful side of late-twentieth-century computer music. Between 1992 and 2002, Ben Zimmerman used a series of Tandy machines working with low-quality waveforms to make short sketches and suites sat everywhere between outright experimentation and vernacular tunefulness. What emerges is a meeting between Moondog and Daniel Johnson in the age of the floppy disk. Most intriguing is the timbre itself - FM synths imitating older instruments alongside samples tuned into sonically matchless keyboards, all coated in a thick oxide layer of digital lo-fi. These are wound up like music boxes and let go, spiralling forward into minimalist abstraction, character pieces or clubbier grooves (including breakbeats) as they eat through their slatted programming. Not only is the limited context intimately audible, but the varieties of mood and texture achieved within it are nothing short of inspiring.

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