Ian Livingstone is onto something with his project Artifiseer. The music on his album Catalyst feels incredibly contemporary (or even slightly in the future) and I say that in a good way. He mixes dubstep, experimental, IDM, glitch and more into a unique concoction of sounds and textures. You can dismiss some of his music as self-indulgent but you can do that with Oneohtrix Point Never and many others as well. To me his music is ear candy. There are so many textures tones and sounds to get lost in. For example, he manipulates his voice from adding lower octaves to shaving off frequencies with a filter all within a couple of seconds.
Does this music fall into the category of pop? Occasionally, you could make the argument because there are plenty of melodies that get stuck on your head long after they are gone. I would prefer to call his music experimental electronic sounds that occasionally has pop tendencies.
For some types of music (especially vocal led pop music) you can kind of get the jest of it on any sound system. There's that one main vocal melody that pretty much carries the song and you can somewhat enjoy on even the crappiest of mediums. Some types of music like the kind Livingstone makes simply won’t translate well if you are listening to it on a sub par system.
Is this headphone music? Yes and yes, this music should basically be only be listened to on headphones that can deliver a robust low-end and detailed high and mids. That being said this is music that can be cranked on a nice sound system with a nice set of subs. If this music is being played on your laptop or worse yet your smartphone speaker I think you might easily dismiss it, which is a shame.
Catalyst isn’t a flawless album but there are inspired moments in which I thought to myself “what is this guy going to be doing in five years.” He starts off strong with “After Dark” by combining disparate elements and rhythmic timings make your senses tingle. The vocals are heavily treated differently almost from measure to measure. Beats come and go like emotions.
He keeps up the next level like production in “XVIII.” The multiple octave treated vocal sound is similar to James Blake while the music sound closer to the experimental side of Four Tet. “STOP!” is about as close as Livingstone gets to a pop oriented, MDMA dance thumper that club kids can twirl their glow lights to. The most emotionally resonant song is “Of Stone ♥ Of Glass” which also happens to be wonderfully experimental. “Sleep Infinite” explores new sounds that are abrasive and dreamlike. It’s an ever-evolving atmosphere that feels a wee bit chaotic.
Livingstone closes in epic fashion with “Kiss Me in Silence” which is an almost ten-minute song. On this song he lets go and doesn’t give a second thought as to what you think. Just listen to it.
I think Livingstone is on the cusp of the evolution of music (don’t misinterpret that as meaning that his music is the BEST out there right now) His music may actually be a few years ahead of its time in some ways. Catalyst isn’t perfect and there were a couple songs that didn't quite resonate with me but they were moments of brilliance. All I can say is that this album is for those who aren't afraid to explore the possibilities of sound. If you ever listened to artists like Fennesz or Tim Hecker this should be right up your alley. Livingstone more so than most artists is one we should be keeping an eye on.
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