A suite of four tracks comes together as a Dossier, the latest album from Patrick Higgins out on June 1 via Nicolas Jaar’s Other People (Vinyl, Digital). Jaar also composed the linear, asymetrical hall of mirrors/cells coverart. Flat File is an stirring mix of electrical signals and uneasy microsounds. It’s a collection of found sounds and different background noise that creates its own disappearing tricks. It’s packed with samples yet remains counter-balanced in mood and tempo. The pauses are effective, and reflexively highlight the staging between music and noise in a new way.
SERIOUS PATCHWORK: This is only his third solo effort since 2012, and this NYC composer has had his hand in the worlds of both contemporary classical and experimental electronics, as heard herein. On Pitch Black the sound is highly sculpted with unexpected contortions aplenty. By layering the rat-a-tat-tat tiny percussion over a whirring, pulsating drone there’s a sense of estrangement and agitation in the room. This is far from “easy listening” per se, but it’s perfectly animated with more bells and whistles that you will find it difficult to turn away, an aural flight of fancy, even at its most atonal.
This reminds me of nothing before, but has learned a few lessons from David Toop, Robert Fripp, David Cunningham and others who helped pioneer out-electronica. A swift shift in atmosphere seen on the next track, [[ redact__ion ]]. It’s tonally cooler, more of a classic ambient piece constructed by faded guitar strings and space-age synths that wriggle through like alien creatures.
White Lie is the record’s conclusion and there’s no real gap between it and the previous piece. As guitars jam through annular strumming the sweet heat rises. Jangling away Higgins seems to use the instrument not unlike a sax maestro uses circular breathing to blast out lengthy harmonics. This is closer to Steve Reich than to Wire or Can, but it’s just psychedelic enough to tiptoe through both camps effortlessly, and yet still remain coolly minimal to an extent.
The open mix rhythms cascade with great timing, ticking my ears, left to right, best listened to at mid volume to catch all the physical details. At one point I thought I heard a drill that turned on and off, the effect is real physical. And suddenly a gaseous air tube erodes the strings for an even more mercurial ending, doused in the static of broken voices as if orated from an old scratched LP. The guitar strives to break through with little success and you are left with something akin to tuning AM radio. Yet a colorful stringed melody breaks into free-flight, paired with a typewriter-style percussion, making the last few minutes of this 18 min piece quite inspired.