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Morgan Packard - Moment Again Elsewhere

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Artist: Morgan Packard

Album: Moment Again Elsewhere

Label: Anticipate

Review date: Nov. 4, 2010

Unless you’re a serious fan of experimental electronic music, you’d be forgiven for over-looking Morgan Packard. To the unacquainted, Packard is a promising sound manipulator, and a nerd of sorts — his website bio reads: “I’m well versed in a healthy range of web technologies, with a focus on sophisticated user-interface programming. I love making a product that works well, looks great, feels good, and is driven by well-organized code.” He splits his time hammering out those well-organized algorithms with making music that is rather difficult to classify: dub-techno, ambient, found sound and jazz would be vague starting points, if one attempted to reverse-engineer a Packard composition.

Much in the way an Oval record sounds different thanks to its custom software, Packard composed Moment Again Elsewhere with his own “Ripple” audio program. Here, the NYC-based electro-acoustic experimentalist has refined his sound design (and perhaps software) to a point where the musician transcends the instrument. His 2007 debut, Airships Fill The Sky, was a subtle one, a record that employed similar metallic glitches, thumping deep bass and ambient washes in similar ways, appealing to fans of Basic Channel, Tim Hecker and Pantha Du Prince. It was a pleasant introduction, but Moment Again Elsewhere feels invariably more confident and in command.

The record opens with a Reichian piano repetition on “Unveil,” briskly moving along in the 120bpm range, dropping punchy techno kicks in and out with crystalline precision. “Allow” and “Explain” serve as interludes and smooth ambient transitions to the pulsing, dancier sections. On the former, the appearance of accordion is noteworthy, less for being novel than brave. Packard’s use of the instrument—introducing it halfway, slowly coaxing it into the fore, laying out simple restrained phrases—works to great effect.

“Although,” the record’s centerpiece, is a seven-minute work of detail and tension, textually dense with stuttering clicks and clacks, frigid synths and fractured piano. Yet it, and the album as a whole, is never heavy-handed — with a less-is-more bent, the sounds are rarely over-exposed, and the space provided for them gives a sharp, hard-edged focus. And like a lot of other records with similar DNA, a perceived sterility is part and parcel to the style. It’s not easy to color these types of compositions “warm” per se — but you wouldn’t say they aren’t emotive, either.

Rhythmically, many of the songs almost have an inertia to them — both pushing and pulling, moving but still — that rewards repeated listens. Rather than building toward a climax, the loops shape shift as they run their course, dovetailing into one another, smudging the lines between each measure. Within that, the space lent to each itemized sound produces HD clarity across the frequency spectrum. Many of these recurring sounds —buzzing, twitching, sawing — recall insects as easily as mechanical found sound: a blurring of organic and inorganic. Combining all of this with a jazzy timbral palette (“Moment” has languorous sax lines blown between stuttering, muted bells) and you have one hell of a headphone session.

Moment Again Elsewhere is a truly cerebral album that’s so mannered and incredibly nuanced that you wouldn’t want to hear it anywhere but your bedroom. And the fact that Packard designed his own proprietary software to achieve all of this is pretty impressive, too.

By Jon Dempsey

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