If Arvo Zylo has any continuity to his recorded output, it’s to be found in his continual experimentation and willingness to push his gear beyond the limits of its own programming. Sequencer Works Volume Two is, while at times seemingly disjointed and haphazardly arranged, an image of the artist at work. These nine compositions, spanning 2000 to 2003, find Zylo working with the double handicaps of minimal gear—a Yamaha RM1X sequencer—and extreme insomnia. Considering those two facts, these arrangements are surprisingly musical (in a conventional sense).
Side A opens with a mix of fragmented keys, drum pad, and 8-bit tones, but the repetitive structure and minor melody could easily pass for an early video game soundtrack—something frantic and fast-paced like “Contra” or “Iron Slug.” Each phrase is developed only over a few bars—long enough to present the idea, but just short enough to propel the track forward. Synth string lines with four-on-the-floor bass and blast beats trade places for a lo-fi tribal track that would feel right at home in a Final Fantasy franchise boss battle. There is almost no distinction between where one track ends and the next begins, and even the tonal/instrumental shifts might happen within a singular composition. In the context of this release, a definitive lack of breaks between tracks is not necessarily a drawback. The overall texture and general sound of each track is relatively similar, which arguably makes these less individual tracks than they are movements. Even at the haziest moments, there is still a sense of continuity—of mood and tone—that binds them together.
The B side maintains the dreamlike, chime-heavy tone that ended the first side of the tape, but is slightly more off-kilter. Between the dissonant tones and slight differences in tempo, the piece generates a sense of inebriation and confusion—probably pretty similar to how Zylo was feeling while making these. As more distorted percussion is added to the mix, things begin to feel more frustrated and aggravated, almost as though the sequencer is reacting emotionally to the amount of automated memory being consumed.
Somewhere around what I assume to be “Fuck * 06,” things become much more monotonous and steady with a greater emphasis on repetitive segments and polyrhythm, intercut with electronic chirps. Even after the instrumentation changes, the general structure remains relatively the same, with a definite 4/4 beat and less focus on melodic/harmonic structure. Even after most of the percussion has dropped off the track, what remains is oddly hypnotic in its cyclic pitched tones. When a blast of white noise and chugging percussion arrives, it’s blissfully jarring. In contrast, the B-side is much less musical, much more disjointed, and seemingly delirious. There are far more “noise” elements, but the tracks also then end up feeling much less dynamic.
While Sequencer Works Volume Two does not display much in terms of replay value (for me, at least), there is certainly enough diversity of material to make the experience interesting. For the artist in process, this release is an excellent form of process documentation and audio experimentation. Releases like this one, while not always the most repeatable, are certainly some of the more interesting ones to discover. Any artist or band can make music you enjoy, but oftentimes the experience of going through the stages of development and experimentation can be much more rewarding. The time spent listening in is at least time well spent.
A1) Fuck * 01
A2) Fuck * 02
A3) Fuck * 03
A4) Fuck * 04
B1) Fuck * 05
B2) Fuck * 06
B3) Fuck * 07
B4) Fuck * 08
B5) Fuck * 09 (Fuck * 03 Reprise)
Written by: Thomas Boettner
Rainbow Bridge Recordings (United States) / RB~205 / Tape
Forever Escaping Boredom (United States) / FEB-70 / Tape
Crippled Intellect Productions (United States) / None / Tape
No Part of It (United States) / None / Tape
Industrial / Experimental / Noise