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MFT Exclusive: John Flannelly - Music For Excitable Hikers
Posted January 30, 2014 by Jon Rogers
WRITTEN BY
Jon Rogers
ON
January 30, 2014
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Listen to John Flannelly's Music For Excitable Hikers:

 

John Flannelly is exactly the type of musician we love at MFT: prolific, daring, experimental, unique, and leaning more than a little in the direction of weirdness at every turn. So it's a bit surprising that Music For Excitable Hikers marks the first time Flannelly has added recordings to the archive. To kick off his new membership in our bizarre brotherhood, Flannelly opted to release this album exclusively on MFT, which makes me feel almost as warm and fuzzy as the music itself. As a member of Bloomington's underground avant garde scene, he fits right in around these parts, where like-minded artists like Dr. Ray, Chicago Bulls Hat, Teen Brigade, and Kaiton Slusher have quietly flourished for years, despite their relative obscurity elsewhere.


In order to recognize his credentials as a bona fide master of strange and beautiful instrumental music, one need look no further than the list of labels with which Flannelly has released albums: Auris Apothecary, Sound Workshop, Orphanology (an offshoot of BlueSanct). Each previous album (available on Flannelly's bandcamp) is a self-contained world of noise, keyboards, effects, drone, and experimental soundscapes. The more I explore his past work, the more I appreciate his personal aesthetic. But let's discuss the album at hand, shall we?

 

As an introduction to his widely varied and rather large body of work, Music For Excitable Hikers is as good a place to start as any other. Each of Flannelly's albums is so different from the others that it would be impossible to draw many solid conclusions about his style from only listening to one. However, Music For Excitable Hikers contains enough noisy improvisational joy to give you a pretty good picture of Flannelly's sonic philosophy, if not exactly a complete portrayal of his harsher side (see the excellent new release Boiling Point) or his more ambient, drone-oriented work (like No Snow).

 

 

"Watching Birds!" opens the album appropriately, with bursts of brightly-hued keyboard tones, skittering and bubbling around the listener's brain. You'll know right away if this is something you can get down with: colorful, rushing, perhaps even a bit panic-inducing, but overall unabashedly free of the constraints of time signature, pop songwriting, or mass appeal. Flannelly still manages to pack these songs full of melody though, as made evident by "Strange Facts About Butterflies" and "Pretty Wild." You may not find yourself humming them hours after you've listened, but the inherent beauty of what you heard will stick with you.

 

The entirety of Music For Excitable Hikers is carried by a breathless and hallucinatory admiration of nature's seemingly random rhythms and patterns. As a whole, it works as a meditation on the unpredictable world around us, begging the listener to sit back and enjoy the ride, even as the sounds fly by at hundreds of miles per hour. Indeed, Music For Excitable Hikers stands out in Flannelly's catalog for its whimsical, upbeat feel, but it does tend to get the most interesting on tracks that vary the pattern a bit, like the chilly, ambient "Stars" or the toned-down brilliance of "Wind Chill."

 

While albums like Oneohtrix Point Never's R Plus 7 and James Ferraro's more recent works have impressed me in their ability to conjure the cold, illusory, digital world that has lately conquered human consciousness, Flannelly's electronic manipulations are more like abstract representations of the beauty that can still be found in the natural world, if we are but willing to notice it. As a result, his music comes across as more distinctive - and perhaps even more optimistic - than that of his more well-known experimental electronic peers.

 

Overall, Music For Excitable Hikers is a solid record from an exciting musician that I'm thrilled to have in the archive. If you dig this MFT exclusive album by John Flannelly, I urge you to check out his other work or catch one of his compelling live shows whenever possible. Even when switching his pace from the more familiar territory on previous albums, Flannelly remains a unique presence in Indiana's underground scene, creating an unapologetic universe of sounds all his own.

 

More from John Flannelly

 

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