(click on a release to reveal text)
Morgan Packard - Moment Again Elsewhere
Interview at Textura; review below
Interview at PercussionLab
Unless you’re a serious fan of experimental electronic music, you’d be forgiven for over-looking Morgan Packard. To the unacquainted, Packard is a promising sound manipulator, and a nerd of sorts — his website bio reads: “I’m well versed in a healthy range of web technologies, with a focus on sophisticated user-interface programming. I love making a product that works well, looks great, feels good, and is driven by well-organized code.” He splits his time hammering out those well-organized algorithms with making music that is rather difficult to classify: dub-techno, ambient, found sound and jazz would be vague starting points, if one attempted to reverse-engineer a Packard composition. Much in the way an Oval record sounds different thanks to its custom software, Packard composed Moment Again Elsewhere with his own “Ripple” audio program. Here, the NYC-based electro-acoustic experimentalist has refined his sound design (and perhaps software) to a point where the musician transcends the instrument. His 2007 debut, Airships Fill The Sky, was a subtle one, a record that employed similar metallic glitches, thumping deep bass and ambient washes in similar ways, appealing to fans of Basic Channel, Tim Hecker and Pantha Du Prince. It was a pleasant introduction, but Moment Again Elsewhere feels invariably more confident and in command.
The record opens with a Reichian piano repetition on “Unveil,” briskly moving along in the 120bpm range, dropping punchy techno kicks in and out with crystalline precision. “Allow” and “Explain” serve as interludes and smooth ambient transitions to the pulsing, dancier sections. On the former, the appearance of accordion is noteworthy, less for being novel than brave. Packard’s use of the instrument—introducing it halfway, slowly coaxing it into the fore, laying out simple restrained phrases—works to great effect.
“Although,” the record’s centerpiece, is a seven-minute work of detail and tension, textually dense with stuttering clicks and clacks, frigid synths and fractured piano. Yet it, and the album as a whole, is never heavy-handed — with a less-is-more bent, the sounds are rarely over-exposed, and the space provided for them gives a sharp, hard-edged focus. And like a lot of other records with similar DNA, a perceived sterility is part and parcel to the style. It’s not easy to color these types of compositions “warm” per se — but you wouldn’t say they aren’t emotive, either.
Rhythmically, many of the songs almost have an inertia to them — both pushing and pulling, moving but still — that rewards repeated listens. Rather than building toward a climax, the loops shape shift as they run their course, dovetailing into one another, smudging the lines between each measure. Within that, the space lent to each itemized sound produces HD clarity across the frequency spectrum. Many of these recurring sounds —buzzing, twitching, sawing — recall insects as easily as mechanical found sound: a blurring of organic and inorganic. Combining all of this with a jazzy timbral palette (“Moment” has languorous sax lines blown between stuttering, muted bells) and you have one hell of a headphone session.
Moment Again Elsewhere is a truly cerebral album that’s so mannered and incredibly nuanced that you wouldn’t want to hear it anywhere but your bedroom. And the fact that Packard designed his own proprietary software to achieve all of this is pretty impressive, too. - Dusted
Morgan Packard's sophomore full-length, Moment Again Elsewhere, represents a somewhat surprising shift in direction for the New York-based producer. Rather than taking the extroverted character of his 2007 debut, Airships Fill the Sky, to a more intense level, he's done somewhat of the opposite in fashioning a collection that invites the term 'microsound'-not, however, in the familiar sense in the word's allusion to music that flirts with inaudibility and champions extreme minimalism; in Moment Again Elsewhere's case, 'microsound' refers to an ultra-focused concentration on sonic texture where melodic cells of acoustic sound are woven into pristine tapestries that are best experienced via headphones or on a high-end system. Compared to Airships Fill the Sky, Moment Again Elsewhere's charms are subtler, more understated and nuanced. Oh sure, there are elements common to both releases-the presence of saxophone, piano, accordion, and electronic beats and textures-but the new album finds him shaping electro-acoustic elements into mobile masses rather than arranging them into individual voices resounding within a simulated collective. Making the project even more of a personal statement is the fact that Packard used his own software, Ripple, for the music's digital production rather than an already available software such as Ableton.
The album's remarkably rich sound world straddles multiple genres. Some pieces could conceivably function as club tracks-club music of an admittedly sinuous kind-while others, the beatless settings in particular (the saxophone-heavy "Explain" and "Elsewhere," a beatless reverie for processed piano and shimmering accordion), are more suited to home listening. Regardless, the album's emphasis is less upon rhythm-based tracks than textural sound sculpting. While treatments are plentiful, the acoustic instruments don't lose their identifying characters, though the piano is often heavily treated. Its dominant role sometimes lends the material a jazz-like feel, as evidenced by "Window" where elegant piano chords are accompanied by an animated blend of ambient treatments, bass synth tones, and a lagging rhythm distinguished by an unusual hiccup.
In what could be construed as a homage to Steve Reich, "Unveil" sprinkles loops of piano clusters across a driving krautrock groove. Packard's attention to micro-detail is already apparent at this initial stage of the album, as subtle filigrees of percussive sound attach themselves to the beat pattern and shuddering masses waver below the piano fragments. The album closer "Reveal," not surprisingly, revisits the opening track by resurrecting the piano splashes and phase shifting in a way that makes its connection to Music for 18 Musicians all the more vivid. Other influences are occasionally audible. Vestiges of the clicks'n'cuts tradition subtly surface, and the material often exemplifies a textural density that's reminiscent of a prototypical Raster-Noton recording. In "Insist," the rich textural sound field evokes clicks'n'cuts in its galloping rhythm pattern of tiny speckles and shaker textures; insistent piano chords, whirrs, bells, saxophone bleats, and assorted other noises also emerge, extending the song's sonic range even more. To some degree the album's focus on sound design suggests Packard's navigating a path similar to Monolake's, and there are even moments during "Moment" that could pass for Monolake. A tasty exercise in neo-funk swing, the track is goosed by a feathery sax motif and clipped keyboard punctuations, though it must be said that the track's loose feel starts to feel a tad aimless during the track's second half. In the other 'dance' track "Although," which digs into a downtempo funk groove without losing any of the textural focus that's so dominant elsewhere, grainy waves of percussive static ebb and flow while a minimal bass pulse thuds and an insistent piano motif plinks.Influences aside, Packard continues to develop his own voice by pulling together multiple strands of musical ideas and production-related innovations, and Moment Again Elsewhere represents a noticeable evolution beyond Airships Fill the Sky. Noting as much isn't intended to discredit the debut release, which is a perfectly satisfying recording in its own right, so much as it's designed to accentuate the advances Packard has made in making that always challenging transition from the first album release to the second. - Textura
Ezekiel Honig's Anticipate label champions a low-key, domestic form of techno that seems largely to have disappeared. Similar productions used to proliferate back in the early days of microhouse, when labels like Scape, Mille Plateaux and Plug Research peddled variants of bedroom-bound 4/4, pre-dubstep bass experiments and faux hip-hop tomfoolery. The increased dominance of the dancefloor, and the death of the chill-out room, brought functional requirements that killed the softer regions of microhouse, and transformed the harder forms into Minimal.
Morgan Packard's Moment Again Elsewhere generally fits this description, yet Packard takes a more limber approach, with pieces flitting between identifiable genre structures and more freeform abstraction. After the snippet intro of 'Ready' 'Unveil' features buried piano chords and digital chimes, nodding to a lazy house beat. 'Persist' explores a kooky ambient-dubstep hybrid akin to 10-20, and 'Although' sags with overweight bass presence, debris swilling to and fro to a bare hip-hop pattern. Elsewhere acoustic instruments dominate, in addition to the near ubiquitous piano: 'Explain' is led by lurching clarinet runs, while the reverberant piano notes and wheezy accordion bellows of 'Allow' recalls Swedish indie folkster Rickard Javerling. These homespun charms - it's rhythms untethered, clouds of granular flotsam blowing across the spectrum - are welcoming after the flood of overly quantised, EQed bangers. - Cyclic Defrost