Info Vicmod label debut 
"Vicmod label debut"
by various
VICMOD (independant)
"'Bummer Interlock' by Steve Law"
"'The Death Of Light' by Steve Law"
"'No Interference Synthi Recording #20' by Don Hassler"
"'pgs' by Cray"
"'Slpr' by Cray"
"'Snow' by Richard Lainhart"
"'The Wave-Sounding Sea' by Richard Lainhart"
"'No Interference Synthi Recording #5' by Don Hassler"

fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

In Melbourne, Australia, in 2006, Ross Healy and Brett Maddaford organized Vicmod, a monthly meetup primarily to build modular synthesizers. These instruments have a history going back to the beginnings of electronic music: small components wired together, activated with patch cords, and adjusted by knobs and sliders. A keyboard is strictly optional, so the more adventurous will use its unique interface to create unexpected and perhaps unrepeatable sound-worlds. The same complexities that create entrancing sounds also make it difficult to participate in a group setting, so modular synthesis is generally a niche effort. Nonetheless, Vicmod continues, having organized group performances in what may be the world's only modular synth group, they launched a blog in 2008, and this year a music label, of which their first four releases span a wide range of electronic possibilities.

Don Hassler's album title, No Subsequent Interference, describes his working method, where he configures his rare antique EMS Synthi A Mk1 to operate on its own. Twelve different patterns separated by abrupt transitions, each anonymous track is a snapshot of a process that could potentially continue uninterrupted until the lights go out. The patterns don't repeat exactly like a digital looping, but return with slight timbral and rhythmic modifications. Each track combines a couple of short characteristic gestures, with Hassler finding interest in their unexpected interactions. He doesn't smooth out the rough edges or make the listening any less bracing, instead he presents the original raw sounds in all their glory. With the rediscovered alien sounds of the analog synth, No Subsequent Interference made me want to watch the original unreconstructed and unspecialized Star Wars.

Richard Lainhart's The Wave Sounding Sea contains his earliest material so far released from his archives, but as a result it is perfect company with the other modular work on Vicmod. The instrument here was the Coordinated Electronic Music Studio (CEMS), built by Bob Moog in conjunction with Lainhart's composition teacher, Joel Chadabe. The earliest piece is the title track, from 1973, preceding his current One Sound concept. A series of low surges, with very quiet tinkles like wind chimes and little percussive events that pass through the stereo field, are a precursor to the long events in his later work. Iron Hill is his earliest One Sound piece, a bright, building to a climax with added harmonics before a sudden stop. FM Automat is a sparse exploration of a single patch, squiggly pseudo-random vignettes presented unadorned. On the final track, Snow, raw sounds reveal the random clicks becoming the complex, shifting timbre. For those with an interest in networked performance, Lainhart has also been collaborating with the Ethernet Orchestra, the brainchild of our trusty Furthernoise editor editor Roger Mills.

Vicmod founder Healy has been involved in all kinds of electronic music under a variety of monikers since the early 1990s, including an album under the name Cray which he released on the French label BiP_HOp in 2001. He recorded a second Cray album at the same time, which until now has languished "on a disused computer hard drive, laying dormant under the house gathering dust for 8 years." Certainly the album opens with exactly this image, single tones slowly modulating under a heavy cloud of static, and the dust becomes a recurring theme on other tracks. Each of the ten pieces on this album present their own sound world, sometimes reminiscent of the contemporary Montreal acousmatists, sometimes of Healy's background in techno and noise.

The most contemporary recordings on the first four releases are from Steve Law's Dissolution, which includes pieces as recent as 2009. His analog synths are controlled with keyboards, combined with digital samples, and looped in Ableton. Even with the samples, Dissolution is a thick dose of analog electronics, active and intense. Like the other artists, Law relishes the unexpected diversions to be found in complex patches, building Bummer Interlock from random percussive blips from a Korg MS-20 and processed coughing. Three of the four tracks are long, letting Law compose extended narratives from the raging to the serene. Dissolution's layered textures are a far cry from Hassler's self generating patch explorations, but these four releases display the breadth of invention and creativity from these vintage instrument that is the modular synthesizer.

Review by Caleb Deupree


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