Front is rich, dense, multidirectional, and very challenging. But is it good? Honestly, this reviewer doesn't know. Even after a handful of listens, its code remains unbroken, its meaning evasive, its structure oblique, its intentions obscure. A collaboration between Max Haiven (Nova Scotia, Canada) and Jon Vaughn (Saskatchewan, Canada), two conceptual electronica artists, Front is a continuous 73-minute collage work indexed in 33 arbitrary tracks. A sound art buffet, it includes harsh electronics, ambient textures, electro-acoustic manipulations, sampling, fragments of guitar tunes, advertisements, pop attempts, and who knows what else. An LP skipping maniacally can lead to a lengthy episode of organ chords or a comical keyboard interlude or a fast-paced collage of harsh fragments. You never know what will come up next -- but the problem is, at some point during these 73 minutes, you stop caring or trying to guess what could come up next. The flow of the piece is overwhelming. Its chaotic unfolding obviously hides a deeper structure -- it is not gratuitous, you can feel it, it has to be following its own logic -- but this structure is very well hidden. You don't come out of Front with the impression of having wasted over an hour of your time, but you do get the feeling that you missed on something. And this impression only becomes stronger with every listen. This reviewer found himself questioning every shift, every turn, and being unable to find a single convincing answer. So if Front doesn't provide an enjoyable listen, it sure provides a stimulating one.
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