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Periphery: Sky Snails

11/11/2011
Olga Panades Massanet

Periphery is a new name for the electronic music trainspotter. Ideated by Darren Bergstein, editor of late lamented e|i mag, site of manifold musings on electronic music and otherwise, it follows a successful series of live events staged in his home under the One Thousand Pulses banner. The transition to label status is effected via three initial releases. First, The Electric Golem – vintage electronics maven Trevor Pinch on Moog Prodigy and James Spitznagel on iPad and digital synthesizers, ipod touch, nintendo DSi, Tenori-on – with Sky Snails, three lengthy pieces of rampant electronics wrangling, surfing cosmic and Radiophonic workshop sinewaves; a one-take affair seemingly based on semi-structured shells within which there is stretch-out space; case in point the final slab of interstellar overdrive, “Sky Snails Part Two.” “What Watson Doesn’t Know” is more harmonized of habit, getting some 4/4 kicks in taking a neo-techno turn on the way. Elsewhere Space Noise medley “Sky Snails Part One” continues the allusion to Cosmic music, though Pinch and Spitznagel veer from the more recondite to more hyperactive circuit-bending, aligning them closer to the untidier experimental end of avant and computer music.

Pinch believes that while classic synthesizers ‘are able to produce weird and unexpected sounds … Jim’s iPad and modern digital synthesizers are more precise… The sound can be changed much quicker … from bell sound to mellotron to horn.’ And it is perhaps this balance of classic analogue and contemporary digital, of chaos and indeterminacy commingling with the clear and precise that gives The Electric Golem its timbral identity. Yes, Sky Snails is, above all, an album for those who enjoy the jouissance of being patched into a grid of cables, knobs, and circuit boards, but in a climate of bandwagon-jumping Kosmische appropriation, it’s refreshing to hear something more adventurous wrought with analogue synths other than hypnagogue wibble and cloud watching.

(for more on the Periphery, see Polychromatic Integers and Home Patterning)