D/P/I – Composer

Composer is a work that calls into question the validity of its title by asking how much of what we discern to be music can indeed be considered composed. “The character of a rhythm can develop very simply/unconsciously with just a slightly different part of the hand hitting a drum, or the wrist getting tired, causing trembling and stuttering that further magnifies the rhythmic stability of the pattern and/or player”; elucidates the album’s blurb. “With electronics, it’s different physically, as you are not ‘hitting’ anything, but the link to the subconscious/unconscious, remains analogous. Every adjustment to a single sound/pattern can reveal complexities that were not apparent when the sound/pattern started.“ This is how the Californian multi-instrumentalist and producer D/P/I interprets the concept behind Composer, but it can be defined far simpler as such: a piece of improvised electronic music. The album doesn’t remove the role of the composer, but rather redefines his/her involvement within the creation of the music. The composer is only present within the performance aspects of the music at an unconscious level, leaving the end result to the fortunes of instinct and the unpredictability of nature. The music is thus actually composed at its conceptual stages, which for electronic music in 2016, is more of a realistic approach. When performance in electronic music is little more than the turning of a knob, it makes sense to give all those aspects over to the subconscious/unconscious and to “compose” the music through something more tangible like the creation of the project, which can go from the particular modular setup to the parameters you’ve created for yourself in the software.

What this results in for D/P/I – an artist who’s made music under the alias of Deep Magic and as a part of various Sun Araw Trios, Duos and Quartets – is what you’d expect: abstract, unpredictable sonic structures with a foundation in the synthetic. D/P/I for the most part relies on a percussive aesthetic that he manipulates in a digital realm and calls to mind Matmos during an unlikely fit of rage against their machines. Staccato rhythmic elements squeak and squawk as they try to find their place amongst each other and various samples. At times like Ecstatics and Escape, D/P/I references something familiar like a vocal sample, a hovering elongated kick, or a dubstep saw tooth grind, but they are fleeting moments that provoke more than they entice as they disappear into the next irreverent sonic construction. The majesty in D/P/I’s music lies in the sounds, a radiophonic workshop style of palette for the 21st century. The textures are stark and barren, born out very little more than a few sine waves and some noise phrased in a kind of dialogue pattern rather than something recognisably rhythmic. It’s as if a computer has attempted to communicate with its user through some drug-induced haze.

And it’s about here where a problem presents itself in Composer. Improvised music whether in organic terms or indeed in the machine is only as good as its final execution. Everything deserves a second thought and to present it in its rawest form often comes across as something incomplete. This is where artists like Delia Derbyshire, David Toop and Matmos always set themselves apart: the improvised moment is only ever the composed moment and from there they undoubtedly revisit it countless times. The result is that there’s a refinement that exists in their music. D/P/I often lacks this refinement in Composer and without knowing exactly how he created the album, I can’t accurately comment that it’s because he ceased creating at the improvised moment, but it definitely feels like it. A song/track finds life, it seems around a theme and disappears into a very intemperate form and never quite resolves into something that feels… composed, or maybe that’s the point. Composer definitely intrigues on many levels, and D/P/I certainly achieves what he set out to do at as he manages to “compose” pieces of music through the underlying concept of the work. It would however have had more of a lasting effect on the listener if the musical consequences were developed just a tad further, because without it, this music that is born out of the moment, very much stays in the moment and there’s very little you can take with you at the end of the day. Like a pencil study of a figure that will eventually become an artwork, Composer takes its place in D/P/I’s discography and biography as something akin to a case study. The ideas within it are concrete and the musical result somewhat stimulating, but I’m far more interested in the theme of the album than the actual music, which is problematic. It makes it all that more enticing to see what will D/P/I will produce next…