It will come as little surprise to Youngs fans that House Music bears little resemblance to the dance genre of the same name. However, it is difficult for me to think of any sense in which it relates to houses. The album opens with church bells and what sounds like a rusty merry-go-round, or someone playing bagpipes fashioned from disused car parts. Then, with a faint crackle, the church bells change pitch, making us aware that they are a recorded tape loop. Soon, we notice that not only the bells have changed pitch, but that the silence between them has too, that the tape hiss itself has become a melodic element in the piece.
For a long time, we [Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati] made it audio-only, but we always had the cinema in mind as where it would be listened to. We didn\u2019t add image until pretty late in the process. Not that there\u2019s very much image but we didn\u2019t even have any role for the projector; it was going to be projector off but in a cinema, and that was to make use of the sound system in a cinema, as well as everything you just described about the expectations that one has when going into a cinema: your schedule is clear for the next hour and a half, you\u2019re basically expecting to sit there for that long, and you can leave if you want but if you stay, the only thing going on is this piece. And of course we made it before the pandemic\u2014as I said, it had its premiere even before the pandemic.
But these are just the moments when A Year Closer speaks in words clear and audible enough to be understood. The giddy, agitated voice of \u201CThe Price\u201D speaks only to itself in a private language, hidden away in a tin can somewhere. Musically, A Year Closer is a series of pieces that make symphonies out of separate processes of decay and disappearance: unidentified cracking and creaking objects, broken equipment, and lost melodies that seem to have escaped other songs and wandered into the room looking for a place to hide. These are the moments that the listener of Maths Balance Volumes always knows are coming, waits for, and settles in temporarily for a moment of repose. Maybe this is the meaning of A Year Closer: while waiting for the worst, things come together, a \u201Cwe\u201D with no name but with a rhythm, a tenuous but definite harmony to share as the clock ticks. Even if, when the lights are turned on, it turns out nobody was there. \u2014Paul Buchholz
Zachariah Cook: Decades ago, swathes of American media were concerned with the darkness lurking beneath cheery facades. Today, when every rock is unturned, not much is left to the imagination. We have our lingering doubts, unanswered prayers, unmet demands, but is there really any question as to why that is? Mystery increasingly belongs to the domain of fiction. The all-encompassing sprawl of decay and corruption is plain to see. The mask isn\u2019t working.
The few tracks that sustain, structure and develop their sound experiments, like \u201CECHOIC FUN\u201D and \u201CMAD MEDLEY,\u201D are really a treat. The first involves various distortions and delays pushing the chuckle into its neighboring sounds, coughing, vomiting, sneezing, saying pew like a laser gun and so on, which is both a neat trick and gets at the hidden grammar underlying our perception, like good Op Art. The second, \u201CMad MEDLEY,\u201D does live up to its name, beginning with a metallic laugh complimenting the buzzing of a tanpura, and ending with hooting whipping in and out of our hearing like it was played out of a Leslie Cabinet. But these are exceptions, and most tracks here fall into cartoonishness, sounding like a chopped and screwed remix of a Halloween muzak record. There are laughs that sound like this (\u201CPAHAHATI\u00D1OUTRO\u201D), and like this (\u201CSPEEDY LAUGHING\u201D), and in \u201CRISA RAMPANTE,\u201D something that sounds like sex grunts processed through the TurboGrafx-16 sound chip. Pati\u00F1o here is trying to defamiliarize the laugh, but that project feels already accomplished by generations of YouTube poop, Timbaland production and whatever \u201960s Bollywood was on. While the concept is pretty stale, at least there are fabulous musical bits and pieces that rise out of the soupy mess of the weaker tracks, and if given space to shine, would\u2019ve made a different, much better album. We feel best what Actually Laughing Out Loud wants to be in the middle of \u201CSPEEDY LAUGHING,\u201D where Pati\u00F1o weaves a dense tapestry of Galaga sound effects that could\u2019ve been a lovely passage from Hosono\u2019s Video Game Music. Instead we get a half-hour of the snickering trees from Paper Mario covering Pharmakon, which is funny but we\u2019re only figuratively laughing out loud.
Marshall Gu: I have been thinking lots about the death of humour in music, about how \u2018serious art\u2019 has become the norm in many genres. I think about Haydn\u2019s delightful subversions and surprises being written out the concert hall, about Bob Dylan laughing a little less and less with each album, about Genesis kicking out Peter Gabriel. In an article for The Guardian, pianist and composer Andr\u00E1s Schiff wrote \u201CIt seems to be much easier to make an audience cry than it is to make them laugh,\u201D and while Schiff was writing specifically about the classical audience, the only genre that seems to be willing to make listeners laugh anymore is hip-hop. So when I read that Rub\u00E9n Pati\u00F1o was trying on Actually Laughing Out Loud \u201Cto question [...] a persistent excess of \u2018seriousness\u2019 in contemporary electronic music,\u201D I was excited to say the least. Especially given the title: no one actually laughs when they type \u201Clol,\u201D or am I projecting too much of my own cynicism? I may crack a smile, I may chuckle, but I certainly don\u2019t laugh out loud, and if I do, then I send out a \u201Clmao\u201D or a \u201Crofl,\u201D but I save the lols for the less-funny ones. But the results of the album\u201415 mostly short experiments comprised of laughter samples\u2014is as unfunny as so much \u2018contemporary electronic music.\u2019 Is this album a noble failure, or a failure of intent? Or does it fail to even get off the ground?
It is not my intention to hold Pati\u00F1o\u2019s album up against one he didn\u2019t intend to make, so I want once more to quote Anomia in describing the album as: \u201Can attempt to explore humour as a subversive tool that allows Pati\u00F1o to question, through a playful approach, rigid standards and a persistent excess of \u2018seriousness\u2019 in contemporary electronic music.\u201D This attempt, I feel, is an utter failure. There is nothing really very humorous or subversive about this album. It is a rather rote, bloodless bit of filter-noodling which might have might have scraped its way on to a Wire year-end list circa 2001, but which is now almost indistinguishable from the work of any teenager with a cracked FL Studio and the capacity to google free sample packs. In terms of questioning the \u2018seriousness\u2019 of contemporary electronic music, Pati\u00F1o is less successful than, say, Alessandro Bosetti in 2006, Hype Williams in 2009, PC Music in 2013, or 100 gecs in 2019. Perhaps he would do best to leave an art gallery once in a while, and give one of them a listen. 2b1af7f3a8