Metamono | Creative Listening (Instrumentarium Records)
When we talk the ongoing heated talk re the relative superiorities of the analog vs. digital ways of making music, we those of us who care about such things open huge cans of worms, though really, it’s best to sit back and watch the concerned parties punch it out among themselves. To broadbrush it a little bit, the point the English all-analog trio Metamono wish to make is that digital musicmaking can encourage far too much lazy and samey music, superficialize music itself and generally just add to the incessant four-on-the-floor wallpaper/stinky aftershave lotion we suffer at shopping malls, on the radio, on TV, in the car and just everywhere. Metamono’s response to this entails making their very own music with analog instruments (vintage or self-made synths and effects boxes, hands-on knobs & buttons type things), if only to ensure truly personal involvement in the actual creation of the music, and to plow mine fields of discovery along the way.
So Metamono’s view of “analog” means the old way of doing things, where you
make things by hand and you take a lot of considered, careful time with it. The taking-the-time element in their work, along with
their pigheadedness about sticking to their analog guns to make their points, are significant differences that set them and their
art far apart from their “electronic” peers. (They’ve even got a manifesto about it, a wryly on-point one, too; see it at
There will always be something inviting –– persuasive –– about the rounded-edgeness of analog sonority, and especially hearing it on vinyl (you can get this release as a download, too). Technically speaking, sort of, it’s about how the harmonic distortion via vinyl is so human-ear friendly; it’s as if harmonic distortion on vinyl is another kind of remix, come to think of it. We hear this fuzzy smear first in the lead-off track “Cloth Ears,” a bubbly thumper and quick-thinking skittering of sounds and melodic bits wherein, like on the group’s previous releases, hmm, well, a hot-air balloon feel pervades, can’t think of a better way to describe it; and as you float and bob over the clouds, below you, the distant looping call of someone talking about the crackling sound of frying bacon. Somehow it seems to refer to the sound contained in the song itself, and you don’t need to ask why.
Creative Listening is the band’s recent follow-up full-length to the 2013 With the Compliments of Nuclear Physics, reviewed with
highest praise here: http://www.bluefat.com/1310/Metamono.htm. On this new one, we hear how much Metamono is a rarity: They are an ideas band, and that they are seemingly chock-full of ideas is very good indeed, because their music is not lifeless, stilted or boring. Because they explore each idea –– such as the resonant juxtapositions of tones/textures/moods, or the overall shapes of the songs –– with such conscious focus and, perhaps more importantly, apparent enjoyment of the process, their analog world has a consistent and very pleasing sense of openness and possibility.
There’s a Cluster-ish feel to “Ugla,” a gently undulating set of e-pianolike chords and airy echoed/reverbed swoops, or “Cocooned”’s sequencer whoops and minimalist bass throb; so much sonic space, and that patient slowness, and lots of interplay between the splintery sonics flitting about in the background. “Daft Bat” propels us forward with a probably shitty old analog sequencer and drum beats like you’d hear on granny’s parlour organ; it ends abruptly like it slammed into a tree. The echoing crashes/smashes (spring reverb rules ok) take the droll-rolling “Mr. Smith” and big fat “Buddha Drop” into a sort of happily ambivalent attitude, a daydream music completely open to interpretation.
Creative Listening is a kind of electronic music that is not just about neat neat neat sounds strung together, though it’s got that in spades. Yet while this record is a great thing to intellectualize about –– it’s got that kind of charisma, it invites it –– it is, equally, just a blast to hear.
–– John Payne
Available on 180g vinyl & download at Instrumentarium Records, http://www.metamono.co.uk.