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19 April 2015

Chad Mossholder: Non-Site Specific (Artificial Music Machine)

Chad Mossholder is probably better known as one-half of the experimental electronic duo Twine. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known Chad since the 90s, when Twine was still in its early stages… to hear his music evolve over time has been fascinating and illuminating. After several effective albums with Greg Malcolm as Twine, Chad is breaking out on his own with Non-Site Specific, a collection of 11 original tracks.

Non-Site Specific by Chad Mossholder

Compared to the often fragmented, splintered, and disorienting samples that characterize much of Twine’s output (not to mention Chad’s guitar work which has become more pronounced on recent Twine outings), Non-Site Specific consists entirely of software-generated music. No samples, just original sound design. While no doubt Mossholder is influenced by many legendary composers and sound artists (vintage John Cage, Morton Feldman, Henry Cow, David Tudor) and has absorbed his fair share of electronic music, this is sound manipulation that feels instinctive and inward in nature. There aren’t any obvious comparisons to be made, despite feeling a vague sense of kinship with some of the aforementioned artists or the highly detailed, layered, and original cinematic artistry of Stan Brakhage. If anything, Mossholder set out to prove with Non-Site Specific that in the day and age of press releases and story hooks and gear glamour, it really ultimately doesn’t matter what technology is behind the music, and there is no inherent superiority of analogue over digital, nor in any context for where or when it was recorded. Mossholder stands behind this music as best informed and influenced by his listeners’ perception of his sprawling sound studies rather than storybooking it with theoretical meaning or content. What Mossholder excels in is sculpting sound that feels unique; this is neither status quo nor glomming onto a trend. It’s appropriate that Richard Devine turns out one extra remix at the end of the album, because I can hear a kindred spirit in Devine when listening to these tracks.

While an album like Devine’s Aleamapper album sounds alien in its own distinct way, the cascading effects and warped sounds of “Azoth” or “Ataxia” feel as though they perhaps exist in a parallel universe. While album rejects the notion of site specificity, it’s not to say that these aren’t memorable. The skittering digital spokes of “Framework” give it a lifelike physicality, while the mutant beatmaking of “Nephilim” is disorienting but fascinating, drenched in effects and tense with feedback and noise. It’s the continual shapeshifting of the latter that makes it one of the most exciting things my ears have heard in some time. He’s set out to carve his own path of unique sound decision, free from associations with tools or gear fetishization or locale, and he’s succeeded with flying colors. Non-Site Specific is immersive listening that challenges and tickles the ears, another top-notch body of work all his own.

Buy it: Bandcamp

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