Like all things these days, it seems experimental music is being pigeonholed. The genre has, against all odds and the nature of its name, become typified by a certain sound. Many indie fans have written off experimental music completely, as with the likes of Ratatat, the Mars Volta and Passion Pit it seems to have become compartmentalized. As the hipster set has taken over experimental music, some complain that it has become homogenous. John Parnell has decided to take experimental music back to where it began with his project 061180 by making his music all about the experiment.
061180 has released nine works in less than two years. Parnell’s newest two releases under this project name, I’m Considering Being a Cloud and Rev. Queen Daddy, both released in 2015 and are his first full-length albums. On I’m Considering Being a Cloud, Parnell liberally applies a method called the pulse technique wherein tones are run through a mixing board or program and then the frequencies are manipulated at different intervals to create layered sounds or even songs. This technique is not new, but Parnell’s approach to it is different and unique to his own musical style.
The opening tracks on I’m Considering Being a Cloud seem so sparse that on first listen, one might find oneself checking that the speakers are working correctly. The first track, Fiction, opens with about a minute of total silence. When the sound does come in, it builds very slowly into muffled ambient noise which by some would not be classed as music. This effect gives the feeling of being underwater, or perhaps of listening to some muted noises from another room. It continues on the next track, A Farm in the Dessert. As the sound story continues, voices emerge out of these muted sounds but only for a few minutes before the track once again descends into more low and ambient tones.
Home Bird III is the third track on this first album from 061180, and it seems completely separate from the first two tracks. In parts sounding a bit like experimental electronic pulse pioneers, Tangerine Dream, Home Bird III is also ambient in nature, but it is ambient music which is created by Parnell’s pulses, not ambient noise. Tracks like this which sound more conventionally like music are actually more difficult to produce with the pulse technique. Creating a melody and harmony takes not only pinpoint accuracy and speed but the crafting and merging of the correct frequencies at the right times.
Home Bird III and Satan’s Kazoo are another pair of complimentary tracks on I’m Considering Being a Cloud. It is unclear in Satan’s Kazoo whether 061180’s pulse samples are being merged with guitar sounds to create an even more electrified electric guitar melody, or if in fact Parnell has used pulse frequencies to replicate the sound of a guitar. Either way, the technique is very advanced and the effect is stunning.
Eat Your Makeup, an almost breakcore-like song, seems to be the most technically difficult on 061180’s recent album. A very fast song with thousands of pulses and no loops, this track probably had to be done in one take. No easy way out for 061180. This track sounds style-wise a bit like German pulse artist Merzbow but with quite a bit more distortion and it is still definitely all 061180’s own style.
I’m Considering Being a Cloud ends almost as it began with A Lessor Key of Solomon, which brings the album full circle back to the muted sounds of Fiction and A Farm in the Dessert. A short track which contains similar ambient noise and muffled voices to the two opening tracks, it seems apparent with this closing track and the title of the opening track that Parnell intends this album to be listened to as one cohesive piece. The album is a story made out of sound with each track representing a chapter.
It must have taken quite a lot of tinkering and experimentation for Parnell as 061180 to create the sounds and atmosphere featured on I’m Considering Being a Cloud. Music is, at its core, part science and part art but some musicians have lost the science part. With 061180 and his newly minted pulse techniques, John Parnell has clearly focused on the science element just as much as the art, and the result is no less emotive and beautiful than other forms of experimental or indie music. This project’s entire catalog can be found on 061180’s Bandcamp page, listed below in “Sources.”
Review by Layla Klamt
Youtube: 061180 – “I’m Considering Being a Cloud”
Images courtesy of artist’s press package