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Dino Felipe - Dino Felipe as Flim Toby

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Artist: Dino Felipe

Album: Dino Felipe as Flim Toby

Label: Schematic

Review date: Jun. 18, 2002

For every instance of creation or moment of inception is a subsequent, and somewhat defiant, act of recreation, a sort of self-revision, when a well-spring runs parallel to its source. The alternate self reduces existence to parody, simultaneously elevating and negating aesthetic function through the exultation of moments lived and imagined. At the same time, such costumed parading is the very essence of artistic expression, inasmuch as any finite statement must exist externally. Experience becomes a passive observation of intrinsic and universal human nature: there is nostalgia and there is foreknowledge, and as the two unwittingly collide they share everything and nothing, vessels of the previous but no longer, the soon to be but not just yet.

Meanwhile, parameters of production prove irrelevant, like the hopeless framework of fluid anarchy. Objectivity raises the stakes of creation, but provides significant clarity. Those traits indiscernible in the self, of past and future, present and delusional, are earmarked in the other: self-definition proceeds from a fabricated, external artistic identity. Voyeurism, after all, is the father of criticism, without which we would verily have no art to identify and none to claim as our own.

Dino Felipe De la Vega de la Westchester, enfant terrible of the Atlanta-Miami bass glitch axis, thus sheepishly offers us Flim Toby, his own artistic self-projection in playful musical drama. Felipe first dropped the Toby alias on a 2001 release for the American Tapes label, but his new Schematic full-length is more of an all-around statement of purpose and intent. Closer in sentiment to Ziggy Stardust than the ironical monikers of Kool Keith, the electronic alter ego is as much a personal reflection as a commentary on recording technology. Dino Felipe as Flim Toby is a sprawling recording, moving languidly across the palettes of glitch, microhouse, and electro-pop. At the same time, the album is a divided affair, delineating between digital and analog, the real and the imagined, in one of the most ambitiously conceptual electronic releases in recent memory.

In one of the very few liner notes for Felipe’s wonderfully oblique release, he asserts that the album was entirely recorded en casa in Atlanta, and the record is, for all its wildly varying components, an entirely insular affair. The first of the two LPs in the current Flim Toby chapter is closer to the traditional Schematic aesthetic of complex, headphone-friendly electronic. Felipe derives static beats from vinyl hiss, tactile glitch breaks from his PC, and slightly off-kilter melodies from 4-track home recordings. “dolipon” and “elefriends” evoke the scratchy laptop pop of DAT Politics, sporting perfectly syncopated beats and a preternatural melodic sensibility. Felipe’s dexterity is testament to the psychosis of the bedroom electronic auteur, flaunting a near-maddening precision that occasionally makes the compositions impenetrable. Whether this material should be accessible, however, is another matter. The overarching logic in Felipe’s music is entirely his own, and necessitates a certain degree of listener empathy: his tracks are always tight and generally amazing, and, if ever inconsistent, in a deliberate manner anticipating a head-scratch audience response. Schizophrenia forgives the erratic, and Flim Toby is an exercise in reconciliation (attempted, at least), working out disparate personalities, locations, and points in history.

With the onset of the second LP, Toby asserts himself strongly and definitively, bludgeoning a certain electronic musician with a 4-track recorder. The more this album slips its moorings, as it does unremittingly in its latter half, drifting further into the boundary waters of ambient improvisation, the more ethereal grows its scope of possibilities. Glitch beats wane as Toby drops the knob on the digital input; the PC contributions remain, but as more of an undercurrent than a propelling force. As for Felipe himself, there’s scraping digital noise and electro-acoustic agents of chance, and his minutiae become so dense as to carry the resonance, though not the texture, of tonal new classical. If the substance of the Flim Toby persona can be defined as a representation of memory and a fixation on ephemeral sound, then sides C and D are most certainly his show. Those analog home recordings he’s been compiling, right under Dino’s unsuspecting nose, assume a higher recording level, the dominant sound source in these less dance-friendly compositions. And it’s beautiful. Much as it shares with the analog-based stylings of Boards of Canada and Susumu Yokota’s recent work on the Leaf label, Flim Toby escapes the static ambient elongation where most IDM has found itself shipwrecked in the last two years, opting for the adolescent, attention-deficit shutter-frame that memory provides. Compositions like “compliq” and “sick later, good now” become points on an axis of colorfully embellished, past tense parabolas, transposed on a present context. Whereas much ambient IDM oscillates between states of awe and anxiety, this record effects a near magical property of perfect ambivalence, in which memories are surveyed with an objective equanimity.

At the appropriate volume, the Flim Toby LP concludes seamlessly, and in this does not end, enveloped in the sound of engine acceleration and tires on wet asphalt. For as Felipe deconstructs the diachronic axis of his own experience and perception, his intentions are translated to his audience, who share some fragment of his own creation, the invention that brought this blessed Toby chap into existence to begin with.

By Tom Roberts

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