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Review: John Flannelly's Fall Mix
Posted October 02, 2014 by Taylor Peters
WRITTEN BY
Taylor Peters
ON
October 02, 2014

 

In 2014, John Flannelly has created and posted on MFT at least five new recordings, including one live set recorded by Michael Anderson (a.k.a. Drekka) at his (Flannelly's) house/venue in Bloomington The Cream. Were it not for the innumerable times I have seen him in actual person over the years, I would perhaps by now have convinced myself that he is in fact not a flesh-and-blood human being, irreducibly separate from his keyboards, but rather a soul/mind encased somehow in a keyboard that has Skynet-like figured out how to upload its creations to the cloud. What I mean to say is Flannelly warps keyboard sounds the way most people talk when they're excited--fast, flipping, sometimes sounding like its stumbling, but never not fluid.

 

 

Flannelly's music is accretive. Using, as far as I can tell, only a few pedals including a Boss delay with a short looping capacity, and an electric keyboard, he mangles sound patches into a surprising variety of unrecognizabilty, all the while stacking them high into overdriven walls before pulling out rugs and dropping, sometimes, to silence. Seeing him play live, the physicality of his various mashings on the keys is inseparable from the piles of bright sounds that course out the speaker cone. The topography of it all makes me sometimes think of Jeff Koons' (sniff, I know) pile of play-dough.
 

 

Fall Mix is the fifth of the five new recordings I mention at the top. It is like the others; it is different from the others; it is more different than the same. Still largely accretive, like I said, made up of layers that collect over time, but differently so than on something like his recent Ojos or Chillin' On Earth releases. Loosely: the sounds on Ojos and Chillin on Earth accrued, in large part, vertically, and those on Fall Mix accrue horizontally. The pieces on Ojos feel as if Flannelly is constantly building up and up from an established base. The two long pieces on Fall Mix, suites and medleys as they are, cram already-bursting technicolor phrases next to one another in a line.

 

Almost by its very nature, this horizontal musical accretion is jarring, taking the listener around from sound to sound. Flannelly himself says the music was making him feel "disoriented and nauseous," which is why we're hearing it right now in the first place--he had to throw it up somewhere. And importantly, too, he's moved on, he says. Part of the visceral effectiveness of Fall Mix is that it feels very nearly ephemeral. For all its whipping around, there is a light, improvisatory touch coursing through the whole thing. 

 

 

I've been listening to a lot of the Finnish psych/noise act Kemialliset Ystävät lately (and getting weird Internet-y pangs about it occasionally too, because I've never heard the group's name spoken and don't have the faintest idea of how to even begin pronouncing it). I feel no qualms calling that group "noise," even though they rarely trade in dark, discordant, harsh textures we might traditionally associate with the likes of the trip-metal set, instead opting for a gooey slush of sounds that, if colorized, could be nothing but neon. It is the same with Flannelly's music. It is ecstatic and inviting, even while it's avant-garde. It screams that noise does not have to be off-putting even when it's confrontational. It's out on the margins. It can be challening, and it can be longform, but it never loses sight of the absolute and palpable glee at exploring just what sounds there are that are still waiting to be made.

 

Be sure to check out Flannelly's set this Saturday at MFT's New Music Showcase at the Maltese Tiger. He's scheduled to play at 3:10. Read more about the whole deal here. 

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