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Inkblot - Love Your Mother

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Artist: Inkblot

Album: Love Your Mother

Label: Audio Dregs

Review date: Jun. 25, 2002

I believe Inkblot’s second album, Love Your Mother, can be broken down loosely into three categories of gurgling noises. About one-third of the songs I would classify as possessing the benign, even comforting gurgling sound of a pot of stew or your mom’s homemade lasagna. The next-third sound more like the gurgling of a volcano; the music in these songs brings to mind the expanse and mystery of our universe, and what lies ahead. The final third are darker and more dangerous; they are the gurgling of the scientist’s lab – the mad chemist concocting formulas for our ears.

Jeremy Ballard of Austin, Texas is the human creator driving Inkblot. His previous album, The Language Game, was released on Tomlab although his current work enters the fray on the Portland, Oregon based Audio Dregs label. Nevertheless, Inkblot has maintained the European feel of the German-based Tomlab, opting for minimalist collections of noises and sparsely used guitar and percussion accompaniments. At no point does Love Your Mother feel clustered or chaotic.

If I was to posit a theory on why gurgling is so prevalent in Ballard’s songs, I would likely take a long swig from some alcoholic beverage, and then embark on a long-winded, pedantic explanation involving Freud, Judeo-Christian imagery, and anything else that has to do with “water.” I will try to summarize. Gurgling occurs when water or some similar liquid substance bubbles, when it is put in motion. Water, while being the touchstone symbol for spiritual regeneration (i.e. the whole Baptism thing), also functions as a conduit for weightlessness and is therefore a substance in which we dream. These two ideas seem to resonate in Inkblot’s work. His musical landscapes portray a futuristic world – not the tenebrous world shown in films like Blade Runner – but an optimistic world in which we are regenerated and free to dream. That is not to say this album is not touched with moments of impending gloom. Nevertheless, these dark spots are accepted as equally exciting facets of the unknown world we still desire to explore.

On Love Your Mother, some songs emerge from what is an otherwise tightly packaged album de-emphasizing individual pieces. “why i left the stove on” begins with a rapid beat and soon after absorbs a dirty, fuzzy bass line, until it finally yields to higher xylophone-like sound and synthesized keyboard chords, the various noises coexisting and trading off leads. The bass line is what remains in the memory though, its raunchiness suggesting a bullfrog or a flatulent plumber skipping through a sunny meadow. On “ism/asm,” Inkblot offers distant human voices, primarily that of a couple having an orgasm. Given the general nature of the album and the non-exotic feel of the song, I am more inclined to think that the sex (along with the other feelings Inkblot dwells on) is stimulated, à la the machine Woody Allen and Diane Keaton use in the film Sleeper. Press a button and you are satisfied. “moth bath” evokes a similar tie to machines, although more menacing. Here Ballard creates an ambiance similar to the one employed by Bjork on her Selmasongs EP and in the movie Dancer in the Dark, where industrial machines pulsate and threaten with their power.

The track titled “after careful deliberation i find it hard to deny the fact that what we all need is less sleep and more dreaming” deserves recognition and praise for its clever name alone, but also shines for the two distinct parts ii contains in one. “after careful deliberation” opens with what sounds like an unattached thread of film spinning over and over again on a projector. After the projector has run its course, the listener gently drowns in the dissonance of too many instruments, noises coming from every angle. Confident enough not to overplay his hand, Ballard ends the song just as abruptly as it begins.

In Love Your Mother, Ballard puts forth a series of compositions that tolerate the occasional divergent musical direction yet overall maintain a consistent aesthetic. It seems an analogy to visual art is apt here, seeing how Inkblot manipulates sounds – the spontaneity and immediacy of real musical instruments interacting is replaced by the absolute control of the composer. Along these lines, Love Your Mother is a gallery opening in an obscure neighborhood, where the artist has taken over a warehouse space and is now reconfiguring it for his own use. Given the chance to curate, I would divide the works of arts into three rooms based on my aforementioned gurgling theory. Then again, Ballard need not be limited by my interpretation for we should all be allowed to investigate the future on our own. Love Your Mother is a good exhibit, and hopefully many will wander in off the street to share in its elegance.

By Andy Urban

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