Steven Curtin

Wires on Dry Trees Turn Night into Day

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More and more artists, especially those open to experimentation, are fed up with the factory presets of digital keyboards and turn back to the modular analog synthesizers of the early days. Their flexibility and knob-based interface allow a very different approach to music-making. On Wires on Dry Trees Turn Night into Day, Steven Curtin uses Paia, Serge, and Wiard modular analog synths to create soundscapes that have a very modern feel despite the nostalgia embedded in the soundwaves of tone generators. They evoke early electronic music, had it been influenced by turn-of-the-millennium laptop electronica after going through a time warp. In the conflicting loops, pitch-shifts, and occasional clicks emitted by the hardware, one can hear Pan Sonic, Fennesz, Oval, or Kim Cascone. Curtin also uses an electric guitar tuned in just intonation in a few tracks, namely "Candlepower" and "New Year 2001." "High Frontier" builds hypnotic counterpoints out of colliding square-wave patterns, while titles like "Spacewalk" and "Phase Machine" are self-explanatory. The album comes to an end with a three-minute excerpt from a live performance ("Moonbase"). Sound quality takes a dive since that one is taken from an ambient room recording and the truth is that the track was unnecessary -- a minor flaw, nothing more. This album may be retro-futuristic, but it is not kitsch for a second.

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