I often wonder if there are parameters to the often over-used and highly abused genre often referred to as “experimental.” Not to sound too existential but isn’t all music, in a sense experimental? Why do bands release collections of B-sides and out-takes? Or alternative takes for that matter? And while I’m at it why are there so many remixes of songs by artists I’ve never heard of remixed by remixers I’ve never heard of? The short answer is that music, along with just about everything else in the world excepting money, has become easier to make en masse.
These previous lines are not the ravings of a madman, only questions that arose in my brain as I listended to the album The Fossil Lights by Des Moines, IA producer Shaun Riekena who records under the name Prisms & Portals. Riekena describes the music he makes as “experimental” although the last time I checked synthesizers , electric guitars, drum machines, and computers have been around for quite some time. And after listening to Riekena’s latest release, The Fossil Lights, I can soundly say that the experiment in question here has been performed by countless artists and imitators for quite some time.
But now I shall stepdown from my soapbox to say that I find The Fossil Lights to be a pretty decent rendering of what is often deemed as “experimental.” I have no idea how old this chap is nor do I know what his means behind the creation of each of the seven tracks which make up the meat of The Fossil Lights. But I can say that many of the songs struck me as being solid sounding renditions of what has come before.
And to not sound like I’m coming off as a critical asshole I will go as far to say that all the seven tracks on The Fossil Lights are fully realized and don’t sound half-assed. They are not simple one offs that anyone with a decent computer and a set of pro tools can just put out in his dorm room on a hungover Sunday afternoon. There is method to the madness here, and I think it comes through on tracks like “Intercept Linear 7” with it’s repeated piano loops stabbing through the eerie harsh whispered lyrics. And it burns through on the equally eerie “Radiant,” with its thunderous piano echoes and cymbal crashes which sound like the perfect soundtrack to a short black and white film. And then there is the all out jam session of the electric guitar and pounding drum darkness on the title track.
The Fossil Lights is in no way shape or form an experimental album. These sounds have all been heard before and done to death. But so has just about everything else. Although for what it is, The Fossil Lights still shines in its own way, perhaps not as brightly as Riekena would like to think it does, but that is a problem we all face.
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