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Tom Recchion - Sweetly Doing Nothing

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Artist: Tom Recchion

Album: Sweetly Doing Nothing

Label: Schoolmap

Review date: Jan. 29, 2007

Music is a way of filling up time. Different tempos and rhythms are different possible means of using certain amounts of time. In some cases, tempo and rhythm are obvious within the first 10 seconds of a song, which is nice if you’re a time-strapped DJ. In other cases, a track’s rhythm can take several minutes to present itself in a traceable fashion.

“The Crazy Beat,” one of six eerie, protracted pieces on Tom Recchion’s Sweetly Doing Nothing, isn’t “free noise,” even if it sounds like “free noise”; it has a peculiar (but definite) rhythmic structure that isn’t obvious until about two minutes into it. Just as a certain level of concentration can turn a mess of dots into a picture of something, a certain amount of time (with a certain amount of concentration) can turn a mess of beeps, bangs and boings into a rhythm.

In the case of “Oozings,” which clocks in at 12 minutes, the rhythm takes a bit longer to come out and play. Sweetly Doing Nothing is not a record for those in a hurry.

Tom Recchion was once a member of the storied Los Angeles Free Music Society, and has cast his shadow on dozens of musical projects, fringe and mainstream. In the last few years, he’s dedicated himself to reviving the exploratory potential of “exotica,” a pursuit that inspired some truly weird orchestral bastardizations before rock and roll scorched the earth, re-emerged as a smirky retro fad in the ‘90s, and is now once again largely abandoned.

People slap on exotica sides to escape, whether to an imagined Pacific paradise in the conformist ‘40s and ‘50s, or to an imagined swank-bachelor renaissance in the crunchy, aesthetically malnourished ‘90s. Exotica died because its purveyors stopped looking for new places to escape to. Its moods and gimmicks were cannibalized by prog rockers and poppy theory nerds like Stereolab, but exotica itself forgot how to daydream.

Recchion has changed that. If you want to draw the shades, put on a record and drift off, he has a few new destinations for you. But they’re not the most comfortable places.

Of his recent discs, Sweetly Doing Nothing is the darkest and most abstract, the most chilly and beautiful. “The Crazy Beat,” “Oozings,” “Ho Ho 66” and “Jazz 10,000 a.d.” are too vaguely defined to be “pop,” too structured to be strictly “experimental,” yet too harsh to be “ambient.” They don’t aim for paradise, but for the dark, threatening, uncharted regions beyond it. Only the soothingly hypnotic “The Elephant God” and the soothingly gloomy “Underwater Girls” approach the spacey simulacra of classic exotica, and they too inflict a more jarring sort of removal than they initially promise.

As “Underwater Girls” draws near its close, the echo of a slow, muffled siren introduces a sense of distant urgency, and reminds us that we’re too far away to do anything about it.

By Emerson Dameron

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