Mark Applebaum

Mousetrap Music

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This album, Mark Applebaum's first, documents his work on sound sculptures and invented instruments. Four of his creations are featured here, but the most prominent is the "mousetrap," a three-legged table equipped with rods, springs, wires, plastic combs, lo-fi electronics, and yes, a working mousetrap. Inspired by the instruments of Harry Partch and Tom Nunn and somewhat similar in spirit if not in design to Hugh Davies' instruments of the late '90s, the mousetrap can be used for a wide range of off-kilter music, from junkyard percussion pieces to kitschy early electronic effects. Here, Applebaum improvises and demonstrates. The two main pieces open and close the album. "Salmagundi" is a solid 15-minute improv that goes around the possibilities of the instrument while remaining focused on performance. It provides the most satisfying moments on the CD. "S-tog" is a 27-minute excerpt from a 90-minute performance with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. It calls for much more electronic manipulation and often sounds closer to studio electro-acoustic music. Between these two chunks are tucked eight shorter tracks, with titles like "Scrape: Threaded Rods" and "Pluck: Koto," in which Applebaum illustrates techniques in a study style. Some, like "Strike: 3/2 + 5:2 Groove," are quite entertaining, but they remain too demonstrative. Mousetrap Music is an original record, but it has a hard time transcending its novelty status.

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