Keith Fullerton Whitman
Although I thought his previous album Playthroughs got a bit more credit than it was due, I found it to be an enjoyable trip through crystaline guitar drones that was best suited for mid-winter listening as a thick layer of snow and ice covered everything. His vinyl-only diversions of Antithesis and Schöner Flßengel showed the width and breadth of his composition ability (although I already knew he had range from listening to his schizo Hrvatski output) and listening to those releases made me wonder which direction he'd turn towards with his true full-length follow-up.
Multiples has now arrived and the release is kind of a Jekyl and Hyde offering that covers the bases from early-electronic buzz and scrape to absolutely beautiful melodic pieces that are easily amongst his best work to date (under any name). The release opens with "Stereo Music For Hi-Hat" and is really nothing more than a warm-up of things to come as hushed hi-hat cymbal tones layer over one another and natural reverb and feedback adds another layer of sound. On "Stereo Music For Serge Modular Prototype - Part One," he gets freaky with the Harvard University synth that he had access to as a lecturer and the track starts out with soft fluttering tones before cracking off into bursts of piercing buzz while the second part of the track meditates on the cold analogue harshness of the instrument to an almost excrusiating extent. The final part of the trio of tracks is all harsh pings and deep stabs through the solar plexes, and after the track is over it's like the album takes a complete turn...
The first four tracks on the release total roughly one-third of the album running length, and once the release hits "Stereo Music For Yamaha Disklavier Prototype, Electric Guitar and Computer," it's like KFW is on a completely different plane as the track layers short arpeggios and backing tones in a way that recalls the better work of Philip Glass. It's a gorgeous track, and at ten minutes doesn't feel a moment overlong. "Stereo Music For Farfisa Compact Duo Deluxe, Drum Kit" brings an actual rhythm into the mix for the first time on the release and in combination with the organ sounds of the Farfisa works wonders as the track plays on both classical and post rock influences.
The two-part closing tracks of "Stereo Music For Acoustic Guitar, Buchla Music Box 100, Hewlett Packard Model 236 Oscillator, Electric Guitar And Computer" might be the crowning work of the entire release, though, as they take up another third of the album running length and progress with a deliberate grace. The first part builds on a repeated acoustic guitar phrase before morphing into a more old-school electronic section that flutters with warmth and life before dissolving into soft droning tones to close out the release.
If you've been following Whitman to this point, you already know that he's quite eclectic given the full range of his recorded output. Multiples is much more dynamic than his previous full-length Playthroughs, and at the same time the harsh buzzing circuits on the front-end of the release are almost too much of a turnoff. It's almost as if he's daring the listener to make it past the instruments that could easily be considered some of the older ones in electronic music in order to make it into a more tranquil place on the release. Multiples is by no means a completely smooth flight, but after a bumpy take off it levels out to beautiful peaceful altitude.