Artificial Dance

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A year after anthologizing the late-'70s/early-'80s solo output of Seattle-based new age/ambient musician K. Leimer, RVNG Intl. rediscovered his less prolific side project Savant, compiling its entire discography (plus three newer tracks) as Artificial Dance. Over a dozen musicians contributed to the project, but rarely were any two of them in the same room simultaneously, as Leimer recorded their performances individually and shaped them into his own studio experiments. Many of the musicians were told to play instruments out of their respective comfort zones, resulting in offbeat rhythms and slightly disconnected loops. Numerous found objects are used as percussion, such as wood, clay, and metallics, and Leimer even plays a buzz saw on "The Radio." The music clearly sounds like a product of the early-'80s experimental underground, but with more of an atmospheric, experimental funk bent, à la Material or early Golden Palominos, than a noisy, industrial one. The earth-conscious grooves combined with tape-manipulated spoken word excerpts (particularly on tracks such as "The Neo-Realist" and "Knowledge and Action") recall Eno and Byrne's classic collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. "Stationary Dance," the A-side of the group's 1981 12" debut, mixes a hard funk rhythm with distant vocals and demonstration record snippets that seem to be manipulated via tape in a similar manner to how a DJ would chop them up on a turntable. The sprawling, rainforest-like "Heart of Stillness" is much more abstract and formless. The 21st century recordings pick up where the vintage ones left off, with an upgrade in sound quality being the only noticeable difference, if any. The tracks that make up Artificial Dance seem purposefully disjointed, and not all of it works, but as a whole, the release is certainly of interest to anyone fascinated by '80s avant-garde rock.

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