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A Tonal Adventure

Various Artists
Microscopic Sound

If you're not quite sure what you're getting into with the purchase of Microscopic Sound, the title of the disc actually gives some hint as to what lies within if you take it literally enough. Instead of going the route of the big-beat or even putting together one of those electro-lounge compilations that seem so popular these days, Caipirinha (known for their pioneering of interesting electronic artists) has gone with music that is stripped down to it's most basic level. Part of the time, it's like aseptic ambient music. Something that sounds like the first compositions that robots would come up with upon their takeover over the human race.

Okay, so maybe that's a bit much, but the key to this disc is that sounds have been stripped-down to their most base level. For the most part, the synth sweeps, goofy samples, and beats that you may be used to in electronic music are gone. Instead, Microscopic Sound is dominated by music composed of pure tones and noise (yes, there is such thing as pure noise).

The disc starts off with super high frequency blips on "Crystal S2" by Noto. After a few moments of these little high-end chimes, the track actually starts into some semblence of rhythm with a super low-end hum and squirts of feedback. It's almost disconcerting to listen to given the offset tones and it almost makes one feel as if they were stuck inside the belly of a huge computer that is about to blow a circuit and short out. Ryoji Ikeda's (who has appeared on other Caipirinha releases) "Zero Degrees" follows things up with an stacatto blasts of white noise and an ever-building pop that sounds like static cling playing to a metronome. Eventually, he also drops in some serious low-end and a tone that doesn't sound completely unlike a blip that accompanies nearly every tracking device in movies. He doesn't stop there, though, and eventually several other elements are added to the track, making it sound somewhat like an Autechre track if it were even more sterile.

"Rotor" by Produkt and "Studio 1 Variation Gelb" by Thomas Brinkman break out of the mold of the first several tracks by doing a bit of something different. With some squishy little noises that recall Cologne, Germany area musicians like Mouse On Mars or Mike Ink, they also have a beat (although dancing to it may cause severe disorientation), which most of the tracks on the disc slide by without. After that, the disc goes into the Pole-esque track "Comp Twee" by Goem and the two more upbeat tracks ("Rom" by Digital and "Zenith" by Sound Track). "Reihen" by Komet would sound like a fairly typical track of ambient washes, but has several different weird tones and blurps that come in over the soft sounds.

Overall, it's a very challenging disc for someone who hasn't listened to much electronic music. As mentioned above, many of the artists on the disc use sounds that are pure tones (that help to create a very machine-like listening environment). While sometimes this creates an environment that reminds one of sitting in a room full of wind chimes, other times it's just plain startling. Still, it's a very interesting idea for a compilation, and a good way to hear a lot of different artists that you probably wouldn't get the chance to hear unless you did some serious scavenging. It will probably challenge you, but sometimes that's a good thing.

Rating: 6.5