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Randomnumber - I Understand Your Date and Time of Nowhere

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Artist: Randomnumber

Album: I Understand Your Date and Time of Nowhere

Label: Rocket Racer

Review date: Jul. 15, 2002

For the most part, the viability of a rock-and-roll drummer outside of his or her context would seem minimal. More so than other instruments, the drums can often serve a purely utilitarian purpose: keeping the beat. Before listening to Matt Robinson’s new randomnumber disc, I understand your date and time of nowhere, I was skeptical. Despite having played in Hood, a band with a once very straightforward approach who have since morphed into great risk-takers and innovators, I was not convinced that this would be sufficient grounds for making a decent beat-oriented electronic record. My stereotypes of the drummer as the single-minded rhythm-maker were holding strong.

After the first song on I understand… I completely ate my words.

It seems that the rock drummer can be a much more complicated animal than I’d given him (or her) credit for. The beats and programming on the opening track, “Connection is Lost” are precise. There is an initial stutter-step beat that prevails as keyboards, weird bells and finally a hollow, distorted, dying organ sound are delicately overlaid. My vision of this album as a stale 4/4 torture had disappeared. The careful attention to detail, this layering of effects and sounds convinced me that Matt Robinson is not the beat-drone I had anticipated — he’s an actual musician.

The rest of the album impressed me equally. “Until no More June” further explores the randomnumber fascination with off-kilter beats, adds some great acoustic guitar melodies and a full sounding organ. It’s one of the lighter songs on the album, which gravitates toward darker tones. “Identical Action” has a panning left to right melody that seeps into and out of the consciousness of the piece. As quickly as it fades, it is reintroduced, intentionally fracturing the listener's impression of the track. This sensation crops up throughout the album—a phrase is played and departs only to reappear later. The repetition of this phenomenon perfectly binds the album together as a series of dissociated yet related events; glints of familiarity in an abstract time and space. These intentional subconscious touches are the true pay-off of I understand…, and showcase Robinson’s talent for creating his own musical universe while extending a steady gravitational force on his audience.

Further evidence of randomnumber’s subtle psychology can be found in “Best Regards (part one)” a lone, sustain-pedal-soaked piano drone. The track is an intermission of sorts, a deliberate attempt to distance the listener from the previous half hour of electronics and steer them gradually toward the end of the album. “Best Regards” is quiet and contemplative, stirring similar effects as other songs on the album but through a different medium, the acoustic piano. With “Best Regards,” more than any other song, my preconceptions of Robinson were laid to rest. He’s good and I’m hooked.

A great deal of effort went into all aspects of this recording: the music, song sequence, and CD packaging. The CD inserts are made from different grades of sandpaper and the covert art is an abstract brown and gold spray-painted stencil. The packaging aesthetic is par for the Rocket Racer label that released the CD. Rocket Racer primarily puts out limited edition, hand-packaged vinyl and took the same care with the randomnumber disc. Musically, I understand… is a solid and deeply complex album that coheres as a whole. Randomnumber makes me feel like a fool for doubting him, but I’m a converted now and ready to proselytize.

By Marc Gilman

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