Bee Mask, When We Were Eating Unripe Pears

[Spectrum Spools]

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Having already provided an overview of Chris Madak’s Bee Mask project with last year’s compilation Elegy for Beach Friday, Spectrum Spools delivers a more fully formed statement with the laboriously titled When We Were Eating Unripe Pears. Like Oneohtrix Point Never’s Rifts, Elegy drew on more than a half-decade’s worth of releases, although the music resisted summarization. Even in omnibus form, the music had a secret inner life that wasn’t always easy to follow, a defining inconsistency due as much to the very personal stakes of the music as a learning curve. For an outsider, it’s easy to say that the practice has resulted in a more satisfyingly narrative experience, both on Pears and the Vaporware/Scanops EP released earlier in the year through Room40. Madak certainly has a more elegant and subtle explanation for the shape his music has taken in the last year, but Pears needs no external support to make sense.

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This is an evocative album, showcasing a bracing sense of musicality and incorporating vivid textures from the natural world. It’s a logical development of Bee Mask’s sound, but in terms of listenability and structural coherence, it’s a leap forward. Clocking in near 30 minutes, Vaporware/Scanops explored a personal, cliché-wary take on the rippling minimalism of Steve Reich et al., with a luster of unease. Pears maintains this edge, but moves away from those interlocking, upwardly-spiraling patterns in favor of linear arrangements that hiss, drip, bubble, croak, chime, and, on “Pink Drinq,” describe a melody brutalized by a wall of gain. The affect, as with Jon Hassell or Solaris, is of an alien landscape being described by some intrepid, lucid, and slightly freaked-out explorer. “Moon Shadow Move” is a particularly potent aural painting, a febrile bubbling swamp inhabited by swarms of benign insects and lurking predatory birds, labyrinthine runs of bells ringing out and evaporating over the humid expanse. It’s a prelude to Pears‘ meatiest passage, “The Story of Keys and Locks,” which edges toward the techno world that’s come to embrace him as worrisome, papery hi-hats and pulsing bass accelerating through low, cutoff-sculpted clouds.

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The propulsion is short lived as Madak downshifts into the Parmegiani-esque electroacoustic whacks of “Fried Niteshade” and the angular drone of “Unripe Pears.” By the end of the latter track, we’ve descended into a waterlogged subterranean tunnel that recalls the “dry tunnel” of Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker.” The paradisaical, domestic tranquility of “Rain in Coffee” is what’s on the other end, and it might well be Bee Mask’s unambivalent version of the Zone, the room where one’s deepest wish is said to be granted. Even with standout moments like this, this short LP is best considered as a whole, a journey whose final destination permeates every step of the way. Somewhat less so than on Elegy, the music here remains somewhat fugitive, hard to recall after the record’s over, but the sense of vision and attention to detail while it’s on are something to behold. Pears‘ purposeful clarity and superb pacing make it as immersive as it is original. Spanning the experimental sonics of computer music and the psychedelic chasms of the underground synth scene, Bee Mask retains his early, slippery austerity but frames his trademark sounds more accessibly. When We Were Eating Unripe Pears delivers on Madak’s early promise and then some, making for a record that stands among Spectrum Spools’ and the year’s best.

Nick Connellan  on November 22, 2012 at 10:31 AM

Nice review. Loved all the heavily descriptive imagery.

nollbeat  on November 26, 2012 at 8:01 PM



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