Dead or Alive

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One of Furt's finest documents, Dead or Alive presents two extended pieces. "Mice" is a studio performance recorded in June 2004, while "Sad Fantasy" captures the duo live at the 2002 Freedom of the City Festival. Furt's music has never been for the faint-hearted; Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer throw sounds back and forth at each other, accumulating a staggering range of sources, densely stacked in a rarely blinking "piece" that never tumbles into noise-for-noise's-sake. This shapeshifting assemblage creates its own inner logic, the same way a ferocious Peter Brötzmann quartet improv finds its own path. The 38-minute "Mice" provides an exhilarating listen presenting very few reference points with the other laptop projects populating the experimental faction of electronica. Usually, when such a point of saturation is reached, artists opt for harsh noise, systematical deconstruction or glitchy textures. With Furt, speed and density never devolve into such options. Barrett and Obermayer are able to sustain the pace, ideas flying so quickly it feels like listening to fast-forwarded, academic electro-acoustic music. The last seven minutes sound a bit forced, but that may be due to an overwhelmed listener more than musicians dragging on. "Sad Fantasy" (33 minutes) proceeds by leaps and bounces, regularly stopping to draw a breath before jumping into the next cluster of rapid-fire events. Slightly more comfortable, it remains just as impressive (and overloading) as the previous track. Exhausting, but highly rewarding and unique.

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