14. October 2019
Distilling last year’s Decomposition Theory tour of algorithmically generated performances down into a singe album, 65daysofstatic have produced a ground-breaking reinvention of themselves as a band, that ultimately questions the very authorship of music.
While creating the soundtrack to the vastly underrated video game No Man’s Sky, released as the album Music for an Infinite Universe, the band were asked to deliver all the stems used when building up the tracks. The game uses a complex algorithmic process to bring the stems together to generate a dynamic soundtrack based on what is currently happening in game.
This algorithmic approach to building tracks has renewed the band, who at the time were feeling somewhat at a creative dead-end, and weren’t even sure they wanted to continue as a creative unit. Seeing this approach as a way forward, they grabbed onto it with both hands, and launched the Decomposition Theory project.
Although they have always been the most electronica minded of the broadly grouped post-rock bands, since 2010’s We Were Exploding Anyway it has taken on a much more prominent position in their sound. Decomposition Theory pushed them much further, using the self developed algorithms, and even live coding, to deliver a unique performance every performance. Evolving the algorithms over the length of the tour until they were ready to record this newly developed material.
The first material resulting from Decomposition Theory was released as part of the band’s A Year Of Wreckage project, a subscription service regularly delivering new music to members.
Which finally brings us to replicr, 2019, an album built around the new techniques developed from Decomposition Theory and A Year Of Wreckage. Hammering the final nail into the coffin of their post-rock years, the album pushed guitars to the side-lines, and delivers a set of fantastically creative electronic soundscapes.
This is an album that really needs to be consciously listened to, and cannot be treated just as background music. You will need a pretty good set of speakers or headphones as well. The dynamic range here is huge, with sub-basses so low at times that they can only be felt through your gut.
Opening track “pretext” is all ominous rumbles and distorted synth lines, which leaps suddenly into following track “stillstellung” with its glitchy and precise high speed percussion. “d|| tl | | |” starts out with the white noise of an untuned radio before building to a deafening crescendo of synth textures and floor rumbling bass.
“bad age” is based around a massively subby kick and ringing synth stabs, while “popular beats” is a mixture of thin high-frequency glitch beats, with a convoluted layering of synth textures and rich sawtooth bass.
“interference_1” starts out as if it is the most ambient track on the album, using a bell motif and sliding textures to paint a soundscape of mesmeric calm. At least until the drums kick in.
Album closer “trackerplatz” is an expansive summation of all that has gone before, while also bringing in a little of the old 65daysofstatic, mixing in some subtle guitars alongside the machines.
The use of algorithms to (help) create the music does raise the question of authorship and whether the band can be considered to have “written” these tracks. I don’t have any real answer to that, but as the band themselves were responsible for developing the algorithms, I think that the tracks can still be attributed to them. If the algorithms had been developed by a third party, then this question of authorship becomes much more complicated.
Overall, the album is both unnerving and fascinating. At times it feels like a machine in its last throws of life, like a cassette player that is starting to slip and about to mangle your most prized tape. At other times the album is incredibly beautiful in the way that it merges algorithmic and human composition in mismatched but oddly harmonious ways.