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Sutekh - Fell

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Artist: Sutekh

Album: Fell

Label: Orthlorng Musork

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

The full-length album Fell by Sutekh (Seth Horvitz) is an incredibly varied experiment, melding electronics and a musical approach which is reminiscent of free jazz. Maneuvering deftly between improvised electronic pieces and danceable click tracks, the record is nothing if not eclectic. Impressively, Sutekh manages to keep the theme coherent through most of the record.

The first song, “Anatomy of a Splinter,” immediately announces an affinity for free jazz. In fact, I had a hard time figuring out if the track was live, sampled, or entirely synthesized. It sounds like an improvisation, but parts of it were clearly produced meticulously from drum machines. If indeed the whole track is electronic, then Sutekh has managed to one-up Autechre and I offer my sincere congratulations. If not, it’s still an effective introduction which sets the tone for what is to follow.

Live and improvised segments recur frequently, and when done well (“Slow Toy Medley”) work to good effect. By itself this idea could have sustained the entire album. So it was a surprise to hear the Pole-esque warmth which followed. “Fire Weather” was my favorite song, perhaps in part because I had no idea it was coming. The beat is made out of pleasing click sounds and a warm dub-inspired piano that comes in from time to time. But rather than settle into a groove and wait it out for six minutes, Sutekh keeps things challenging with occasional bursts of noise and/or silence, and other interesting edits.

The latter half of Fell heightens in dissonance, using the free-electronics idea between ambient and found sounds, white noise, and irregular beats. Unfortunately the concept begins to wear thin by the eighth song (“Recession Clouds”). This track struck me as an unnecessary comment on already better-explored concepts, and the album could have done without it. Finally, the last track (“Wings Over Kansas”) emulates a dark film score, complete with soft/loud orchestral strings, where a return to free-electronics would have been a much preferred and much more appropriate ending. The bonus track, hidden several minutes after the ninth song, is an alternation between noise and quiet high-pitched tones.

For the first seven songs, Sutekh has made one of the most imaginative electronic records in recent memory. His approaches mold composition and improvisation, and result in challenging yet thoroughly listenable music. Taken either as an intellectual challenge to musicians like Pole or as an assignment in blending free jazz and electronic sound, or as both, Fell is successful.

By Ben Tausig

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