marcus fischer
sound + art from portland, oregon

Unrecognizable Now
Two Rooms
CD + Digital / edition of 300 with numbered letterpressed sleeves
Kesh 2012

What experiments are possible when ‘ambient’ music is played loud? This line of enquiry forms the basis for the new album by Unrecognizable Now, a collaboration between Portland, Oregon-based musicians Marcus Fischer and Matt Jones. With two albums for the Pehr label under their belts, as well as scores for film and dance, the new release is the result of a process of experimentation, via high volume, with the acoustic properties of a specific architectural space. “Two Rooms” was recorded using an unusual setup: the sound was captured live by microphones placed at either end of the long corridor outside the room in which the musicians were playing. This spatial configuration makes interventions of its own in the album’s sound, adding unpredictable reverberations and resonances, and amplifying every nuance and tuning discrepancy. It is as if the architectural space becomes an extra member of the ensemble, bringing its own rumbling, discordant colours to enliven a music that would otherwise be perhaps a little too ‘beautiful’.

The dense, foggy textures of “Two Rooms” may surprise listeners familiar with Fischer’s recent solo and collaborative releases such as “Monocoastal” and “In A Place Of Such Graceful Shapes” – a reminder that the beginnings of his collaboration with Jones predate those records by several years. The trademark sharp, crystal-clear micro-details are mostly absent here, replaced by a more dreamlike atmosphere that is nonetheless not lacking for intensity: less immediate for the senses, maybe, but perhaps closer to a more traditional musical language of emotion. Pushing the sound further in this direction is Ted Laderas (The Oo-Ray)’s swooningly Romantic cello, adding further richness to the sound palette created by Jones and Fischer’s thrumming and singing electric guitars.

Given the technical setup, it could’ve been easy for the album to end up sounding like a badly-recorded rehearsal, but fortunately Jones and Fischer find ways of working with rather than against the disturbances produced by the space. Often it sounds like they are not in complete control of what is happening, but this seems to be something they relish in rather than resist, an approach that opens up new sonic avenues to explore. Fischer told me that Unrecognizable Now has developed through a habit of collaborating and improvising with others; in “Two Rooms” the physical space itself becomes part of this process of bouncing around ideas and seeing what comes back. An intriguing and distinctly musical approach to the problems posed by a literal kind of ‘ambience’.

- Nathan Thomas for Fluid Radio diagram.jpg