CD, Electr-Ohm/Appliance, 2008
Two years ago, acclaimed Japanese electronic musician Sunao Inami treated us to a compilation featuring works by an international selection of experimental electronic musicians. Released through Inami’s own label, in collaboration with the Japanese experimental music record label Appliance Japan, “My Life In An Insulation Test” is a follow-up of sorts to “Electr-Ohm Compilation1.” Like its predecessor, the participants come from all over the globe – North America, Asia and Europe – and its music selection is quite eclectic.
Opening with a skilled, subtle and unreal composition by veteran P.A.L, followed by a seemingly chaotic offering by the French duo dDamage, the listener is faced with “Par Amour,” one of the standout tracks of this compilation by acclaimed French sound artist Sonic Area; a beat-driven and engaging collage sound collage. This leads the listener into a somewhat desolate drone industrial landscape courtesy of Uniform, which starkly contrasts “Alexander,” by Ananda Jacobs, a trip-hop hybrid with classical elements thrown in. Saburo Hirano’s contribution is another highlight, an immersive composition skillfully combining subtle drones, fleeting sounds and processed water sounds into a rather cinematic piece. This seems to be complemented by the playful watery clockwork composition of N-rgle. With Knr and Mushitsuro, the compilation veers towards a more danceable sound, respectively influenced by darkstep and hardcore (though Mushitsuro’s could benefit from more impact). Interestingly, Daruin’s “Google Man ver 1.0” is a pleasant exercise in glitch which somehow conjures images of routers making sweet love (go figure). Nearing the end, Sunao Inami presents another standout track, an expertly crafted tapestry of sound that layers marked beats, sequenced melodies and glitches, and combines them with haunting voices into a piece with great theatrical effect. Preceding the concluding, haunting piece by After Birth, Germseed’s contribution is a subtle and abstract exercise in minimalist composition, perhaps too much so, as not many listeners will appreciate a minimalist track that essentially consists of slowly evolving static hum and analog glitches. However, its placement enables it to work as an anodyne outro of sorts.
Somewhat lacking in the way of definitive ear-grabbers, “My Life In An Insulation Test” is bound to appeal mostly to experimental music enthusiasts and sound artists alike, as not all the music presented is immediately accessible to the casual listener, despite the overall listening experience being quite pleasant. While none of it is particularly extreme (mostly wandering between ambient drones and d’n’b-influenced broken beats), some of it may raise a couple eyebrows along the way. Considering the variety of subgenres presented, the track placement seems adequate and quite effective, giving each piece the chance to cause some impact on the listener without any serious hiccups in the overall listening experience. Perhaps not as groundbreaking as the similarly titled album by David Byrne and Brian Eno, this is nevertheless an interesting showcase of talent, bound to broaden one’s musical horizons. Presenting the work of artists from relatively ‘exotic’ locations, this release also hints at a progressive globalization of music styles and a blurring of cultural tendencies and idiosyncrasies.
— Miguel de Sousa