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Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Future Perfect is a collection of multi-instrumental musicians and visual effects artists coordinated by Chris Strouth. Their Web site notes that the group is "a cross cultural concept mixing classic and popular electronica, tape loops, found sounds, and concept music." They aim to "create a trance inducing soundscape . . . presenting it in a challenging and interesting environment: DJ's, musicians, visual artists, and social historians working together to define a new musical frontier, while showing the world in which we live in a different light."
The Nature of Time was "commissioned for the Sonic Circuits International Festival of Electronic Music and Art, underwritten by the American Composers Forum with funding from the Jerome Foundation" (CD [End Page 97] notes, p. 6). A goal of the Sonic Circuits event has been to address the barriers separating different aesthetic approaches to electronic music making. The CD is released on innova Records, the American Composers Forum label, where Chris Strouth is also Director of Artists and Product. The recording is an extension of performances at the Fredrick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Minneapolis, in March 2000. It collects together renditions recorded in individual artists' studios, mixed by engineer Bob DeMaa.
Advertising for the disc on the innova Web site notes that the Future Perfect sound "can be described as experimental, electronic, acoustic, quiet, loud, and any number of other contradictory adjectives . . . Suffice it to say that it isn't easily categorized, though you might put it into the modern Electronic bin somewhere near Amon Tobin's Supermodified but not too far from Main, Cluster, or Bomb 20."
Mr. Strouth elaborates on the theme "The Nature of Time" in the opening pages of the CD booklet, and the innova Web site notes that the recording is "a seamless blend, to be enjoyed as an experience in and of itself. The record is about time. Time as allegory, time as measurement, time as distance, and emotion. Time as it is, beyond just the simple act of counting the moments between events." It adds that "life is a series of transitions. Think of this record as allegories and abstractions of time, eleven pieces forming a whole."
One is then left to assess outcomes against the intentions set out to be achieved, the traditions drawn on, and the extensions to it attempted.
Of the eleven tracks on the disc, three feature the work of the group Zafig, with text and narration by Mr. Strouth. Reading through the introductory booklet notes and listening to the narration on the disc, I am whimsically reminded of Frank Zappa's description of rock journalism as "people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read." Musically, one is also reminded of the limitations of contemporary parochialism in the face of a significant past body of work in commercial and non-commercial music from the analog era, and of thinking that new modes of production simply equate with superior or unique artistic outcomes. In combination, the impression gleaned is that the intended audience for the disc should have a limited grasp of the Western intellectual tradition and of the range of musical works within the western popular canon.
Having said this, the production quality on the disc is generally excellent, and there are fleetingly delightful sonic moments.
The opening track, The Nature of Time by A Most Happy Sound, is a collaboration between Lorren Stafford and Mr. Strouth. The notes (p. 5) indicate that this is "dedicated to smashing artistic and intellectual barriers" and combines "elements of Pop, electronica, and New Music to create a genre that will frighten everyone equally." In fact, it is reminiscent of Vangelis's science fiction film scoring. The layering is interesting, but the rhythmic blandness in parts obscures the more interesting soundscapes.
Zaftig's Thin Air...