E Millar | no instrument machine, air
Mystery & Wonder Records (CD/DL)
A groaning din–heavy bass undulating tone-field sets the mood for what ensues as a horrific animus industrialite in-dwelling that is Montreal-based Elizabeth Millar’s no instrument machine, air. Within seconds of its twenty-two minutes the listener must confront how to approach what they are experiencing. Anne-F Jacques writes in the liner book that the music of E Millar is like the discovery of objects which are engaged in their own unexplained activities, ‘concerned only by their own affairs.’ The deceptive cover art indicates a minimalist stop-motion which when rendered by flecks of screeches and metallic scrapes streaking around the latter part of the track highlight the first track. A rattling tremor tag trails to end ‘Mechanical Forest Sound 1.’Dropping, then dropping again, deeper is the unwavering heave of the second track ‘propeller and metal disc.’ The title saturates the imagination with the obvious dual elemental objects at play. A metal disc vibrates increasingly more quickly – quivering rapidly with an unbending doom which rides through the ear like a tissue massage for the cochlea. In sound, track three ‘light metal’ continues the dichotomy between distinctly basic and treble sonic frequencies but the title makes one wonder if a singular piece of literal metal is being ‘played’ here – not as an instrument suggested by the title but perhaps ‘performed.’ There is a whooshing current like underwater stomach growling. The shrill dribbling rhythmic percussive element warbles in variant shiver. The pulse of vibration shifts several times and there seems to be a sort of wooden percussive tapping element introduced.
‘Mechanical Forest Sound 2’ rips away the brief levity just previously experienced with a desolate intro. A post-apocalyptic drift satisfies the imagination – a calm airy aura. Chaotic chirping strikes. The wooden elemental rattle pursues. The track fades with radio static. Static and pause – ‘NIMA’ commences. Somewhere between the howl of a suffering creature and a tea-pot set to boil is the ‘on/off’ and intermittent silence. The rumble takes hold and then electronic creaking phrases ripple. Like a brick, the abrupt terminus.
Certainly, there is a narrative within this treasure of produced noise. There is a coy sort-of self-aware interplay between the composer and the listener. I know I’m being summoned to enjoy the experience but can’t help but feel like I’m being toyed with in the process. The cat-and-mouse effect is compounded by the balance of concrete and abstract notions contained in the album. The message is resolute and profound even if not quite within the grasp of reality or understanding. In the sparse literary clues, the objects are named. Elements of suspense and contrast are suggested by mechanisms coming alive, perhaps a bit contained but wild in their own space. This must be a koan of sorts on matter and void space – one I can’t pin but like Jacques notes, play on repeat.