By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Playback Confusion Device Volume One
As genre names go, computer music is one of the most off-putting: It suggests a legion of white male academics fiddling around with bi-quad filters in the service of making "tone-poems" with less funk than a retirement home's polka band. Lucky, then, that Austrian experimental label Mego defies such connotations. Over the course of its 10-year-plus existence, the Mego crew has produced a bewildering array of gleefully deranged records, proving that laptops can make sounds as savagely beautiful as any scuffed punk 7-inch.
Mego's latest two unruly releases by Hecker and Aleph Empire are fine examples of their trademark borderline-malicious music, but Hecker's Sun Pandämonium is perhaps the more startling of the two. Whereas his debut IT ISO161975 was a compelling piece of clinical minimalism, Sun Pandämonium is pure noise, coming on like David Lynch's score to a malevolent child's tantrum. "bsftyk 5" opens the proceedings with a disorienting rush of granulated shards, eventually giving way to the 21-minute showstopper, "Stocha Acid Zlook," which pitches a razor-edge drone against swarms of crunchy glitches. But with "Jxean-z Character Generator," the album shifts abruptly, offering five short tracks of near silence punctuated by micro-edited squalls of noise. The cumulative effect on the listeners' nerves is devastating: Anyone who can press "play" and survive all the way through the closing track, "Vi Retrospect," should probably consider a career testing the relative frequencies of dental drills.
In comparison, Playback Confusion Device Volume One by Aleph Empire (not to be confused with didactic Digital Hardcore boss Alec Empire) is a surprisingly analog affair. In fact, the album sounds like some lost cassette release from the ever-inventive local noise imprint Freedom From. A chaotic live recording of a vinyl cut-up session at Vienna's legendary Rhiz club, Playback Confusion Device swings from brutal noise to cut-up screaming to breakbeat splattercore mayhem with scant regard for the traditional linear narrative of the DJ set. The opening few minutes offer a condensed summary of Empire's wayward techniques, with a jet plane blast of feedback slowly collapsing into recorded laughter, hyper-distorted breaks, and a repeated scream of "Fuck you!" It's at once confusing and exhilarating and a test of patience to rival even Hecker. Thank you, Mego. Now where's the aspirin?