Mark Fell is perhaps best known as one half of ultra-minimal “clicks_+_cuts” protegés SND. With that project, he and partner in crime Mat Steel explored the outermost limits of what it means, as Coil coined the term, to worship the glitch. Tracks are often untitled or named with data strings of nonsense and slowly mutate with the bare minimum of change or musicality. Sounds are often atonal and digital, trimmed down to blips, snips, clicks and cuts (thus the name of the original Mille Plateaux series that launched SND’s career). Fell has been busy outside of SND with projects like Shirt Trax and other aliases like .h and Secular Musics of South Yorkshire, but this new solo outing is one of his most focused and solid efforts. It’s only fitting that he found a home at Raster-Noton, the severe German imprint that has been releasing focused digital-signal music for well over 10 years now. Home to veterans of the sound like Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto), COH, Byetone, Senking and more, the non-dancefloor, experimental wandering found in Multistability fits right in. From the first utterances of the album, Multistability is through and through Fell. In fact, the first time I heard it, I assumed it was SND until I realized it was his solo material. There’s just something about the sounds themselves that are very Mark Fell… clean, but vague in terms of pitch. All timbre without much tonality, but completely inorganic by design. This is entirely synthesized music that’s been cleanly assembled, but it has an unusual amorphic quality as it sputters and slithers around your brain. The main distinction between this work and that of SND is that the grounding and regularity that lends SND a kind of sedate groove is completely absent… the sounds have more of a life of their own here, freed up from the beat and therefore more playful, sometimes spastic, sometimes almost downright irritating, but always restrained just enough to avoid too many pitfalls. Every once in a while a more regular groove threatens to take hold, such as on “Multistability 7-A” about a third of the way through playback (all of the titles are numbered variations on the title, hardly handy for distinction). As it evolves, though, more tracks make reference to pop cliches. If that isn’t a bastardized house piano on “Multistability 10-A” then I’ll be damned… and “Multistability 1-B” seems to be a purely post-techno statement, with its unresolved chord stabs (if you can call them that) and insistent bass kick, but its tempo continually shifts to eliminate any dancefloor compatibility; it’s the most ephemeral essence of techno without any of the utility.
Watch/listen: Multistability 3