Numbers on the Mast
(Artifical Music Machine AMMM001-11-2)
From Aural Innovations #39 (May 2008)
Austin, Texas, may be known to most music lovers as the home of blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, but it is also the base for Artificial Music Machine, an independent record label that specialises in ambient electronic artists, including Numbers On The Mast, who released their debut album in December 2007. The band was formed in 2002 and features Eric Archer, Trey Smith and Matthew Thies, three men who take minimalism deadly seriously. There are no track titles, or even identifiable musical instruments, making up this six part self-titled sound collage.
The six tracks on this album are identified only by their duration, with most lasting about 15 minutes or longer. Guitars, conventional percussion instruments and the vintage ARP 2600 synthesizer are buried under dense layers of feedback, electronic effects and drone frequencies. The first track (“14:03”) sets the scene with UFO-style pulsing while samples and assorted “found sounds” loop and oscillate in and out of the mix. The closest musical reference points might be Popul Vuh and pre-”Phaedra” Tangerine Dream, while track three contains elements of early Pink Floyd from their “Saucerful/Ummagumma” phase.
Curiously, Numbers On The Mast also have aural similarities with some of the 1960’s recordings by British free improvisational group AMM. This may be especially significant given that Numbers are signed with the afore-mentioned Artificial Music Machine, which can be abbreviated as AMM! (AMM’s guitarist Keith Rowe has stated that, “the letters AMM stand for something, but as you probably know, it’s a secret). The music of Numbers On The Mast is equally enigmatic, and is not for everyone. However, those with a taste for the more extreme end of electronic ambience and minimalism will find plenty to enjoy in this dark, spacey recording.
NB This recording has not been released in CD format, but is digital-only (in
mp3 and flac file formats), and available for download on December 14th , 2007
and later via iTunes, eMusic, and other online digital distributors.
You can visit the band web site at: http://www.myspace.com/numbersonthemast
Visit the record label web site at: http://www.artificialmusicmachine.com
Reviewed by Pat Albertson