Scott Puhl - "Sustenance" (self-released 2002, CDR)
DM - "Clonazepam Stochastic Panic Predictor" (self-released 2002, CDR)
From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
Both of these projects are by guitarist Scott Puhl. If you like long, minimalist excursions, these will definitely be a treat for you.
Puhl originally recorded Sustenance as an accompaniment for an apparel design show by Rebecca Zimmerman. Recorded live using various guitars, a drum machine, and custom software the artist wrote himself, the recording is in two pieces, the 39-minute long Seating, and the 20-minute long Event. No radio-friendly pop tunes here! Seating sets up a slow, pulsing rhythm, over which Puhl improvises other subtle guitar parts, from echoing leads to washes of feedback. The music is vastly spacious, and sometimes quite eerie. Itís like driving down a lonely country road, late at night. It can be monotonous, yet strangely involving...mesmerizing. As chance would have it, the first time I was listening to this track, I was in the car at night, and took a wrong turn down-you guessed it-a lonely country road. Seeing a side road, I pulled in to turn around and my headlights fell on the desolate ruins of some ancient farmhouse. Scott Phulís music ran its icy fingers down my spine, and I shuddered. Oooooh. It was that kind of creepy feeling one relishes, the kind that has you grinning with delight even as your looking over your shoulder. The second piece, Event starts with the same rhythm, but becomes a little less minimalist than Seating. Here, ringing, throbbing percussion, shivering space effects, and long, droning guitar wails build slowly to a gentle crest, and taper off just as slowly. One gets the feeling of being inside the hull of some gigantic, derelict star ship, floating alone in the vast void of space.
Clonazepam Stochastic Panic Predictor is in some ways similar to the Event portion of Sustenance, but also quite different. At 42-minutes in length, it certainly has time to stretch out and explore... and explore it does. Far less minimalist, and more rock oriented than Sustenance, Clonazepam Stochastic Panic Predictor nonetheless begins with a lengthy ambient build up of drones and effects for nearly 10-minutes before ominous, throbbing waves of feedback begin to lap at its musical shores. It suddenly explodes into a fuzzed out freak out. I found it amusing to hear Puhl using the drum machine to try to approximate a free form drumming sound. It doesnít always work, but itís one of the more interesting uses of electronic percussion that Iíve heard. Eventually the piece ebbs and returns to more groaning ambience, building into a slow and heavy jam towards the ultimate end. If you have the patience for it, itís a mindblower.
Itís easy to float on Scott Puhlís soundscapes, and have them surround and envelop you in their ambience. But thereís also enough variation to sustain interest for the incredible lengths, making both these releases highly recommended listening.
For more information you can email Scott Puhl at: email@example.com.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald