Ousia: Why Is That a Four?

Why Is That a Four?

"VASSEL MYLER" AND "Architects of Fear," from Ousia's near-impenetrable debut, take wicked drum'n'bass rhythms and bury them deep in walls of distortion and oceans of ambient opacity. Electronic music's funk energy is subjugated by mounds of sounds to the point that you're almost made to feel that the music's black roots are being forcefully denied. Which isn't quite the case. Like the new Spring Heel Jack and the much-vilified collage-hop work of DJ Spooky, this is funk-derived music that seeks out roots in European modern classical and the lotion-like experimentalism of Brian Eno or Morton Subotnick. But unlike Eno's Music for Films, or Mort's Silver Apples of the Moon, Ousia has bite. And it also has a beautiful edge that keeps the tracks from becoming a mere stoner symphony, or, as the clichéd dis goes, "aural wallpaper." The funk is in the house, but it's chained up in the basement.

On Why Is That a Four?, the age-old maxim "it's got a great beat and I can dance to it" is recast as "it may or may not have a beat at all, but I can read to it." Even if the disjointed groove on "Why Is That a Four?" or the 12-minute head-rub "Angular Pillow Gate" do suggest groove music, the main idea here is distance. You're not so much drawn into the slow pull of "Future Perfect" and the trance-like "Outer Perimeter" as you're asked to confront them. Once that's accomplished, then you can let yourself get drawn in (though you'll never come close to grooving). And while overcoming that confrontation stage (i.e., understanding these incredibly cerebral songs) may require an adroit application of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the reward is worth the math.

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