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Longstone - Archive: 03

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Artist: Longstone

Album: Archive: 03

Label: Ochre

Review date: Apr. 23, 2003

Imitative Electric Improv

Improvisation tends to balance itself on the abyss of disaster, always one step from catastrophe. While this chance of aural apocalypyse is often inscribed in the all-too predictable (un)certainty of noise and chaoos, improvisation can also mire itself in the muck of boredom – of wandering, repetitive moments.

Longstone is playing live on this double-cd set of acid-influenced breakbeats, d 'n' b, and experimental tracks. Analogue gear figures highly in the composition and live performance of this hybrid of electronic sounds and various supporting band members – some of the more successful tracks are those in which elements usually exterior to the electronic world are incorporated. But more often than not, the tracks loop themselves into 303 squelches over drum loops, long drawn out arpeggiator sequences, crescendos and crashes. Disc 01 exhibits all of these tendencies, which led me to scrawl on a piece of paper: "Interesting....but repetitive." Longstone is not setting out to create dance music, but neither is it listening music. There is an exciting potential of ambiguity to Longstone's creations... On several of the live tracks, the audience is heard clapping – which leads me to believe that we can partially explain the angle of Longstone's engagement with electronic music as being primarily band-oriented. While productive junctures have arisen from this meeting – notably the myriad explorations of post-rock – in this case the electronic sound noodles along a little too long, gets a little too stale. The standard 303 squelches, obvious loops and arpeggiator work are simply not subtle nor complex enough when compared with other work in either the post-rock or live experimental improv genres.

For Disc 02 I wrote "fascinating IDM breakbeats with acid cuts” – the second disc fares much better in harnessing the creative energies of Longstone and developing the dominant and intricate patternings through inspirational moments mined from the bliss of performance. Longstone achieves what is so difficult to accomplish in the performance of live electronic gear: an inventive, charged direction through directionlessness. The ambiguity hinted at on Disc 01, the indeterminacy of the music's in-between status, is here explored in its cut and uncouth emergence. The sound is powerful and raw and blissfully unaware of the diverse styles paralleling it at the time – as most of these tracks are from 1997-1999, with only a handful from 2002. There is an edge to the second disc that reminds me of Midwest techno and hardcore – a kind of 'fuck you' attitude to those who would stand and judge in comparison, i.e., like I just wrote for Disc 01.

But...(there's always a "but," as a critic, as a writer) – when it comes down to it, there are too many similar sounding tracks on this double-disc. The amount of good material here could have been compressed to a single album. The compactness of a single disc experience would have forcefully engaged the ears with the rawness of Longstone while leaving the ears unchafed from drawn-out arpeggiator rides.

By tobias c. van Veen

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