Dusted Reviews

Random_Inc - Walking in Jerusalem

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Random_Inc

Album: Walking in Jerusalem

Label: Mille Plateaux

Review date: Mar. 10, 2003

Wandering Wind

The windy rhetoric that characterizes today’s global political climate moves too often from pole to pole, from one end of a duality the other. Random_Inc, a.k.a. Mille Plateaux’s Sebastian Meissner, breathes new life into one of the most highly charged topics and regions in recent global history. Sonically, and in some ways conceptually, Random_Inc takes cues from Muslimgauze's sonic pilgrimages, posing as a modern wanderer in an ancient land, gathering sound snippets and melodic fragments and warping them through strands of static. But whereas Muslimgauze’s work was unabashedly partisan (and he never actually physicallyvisited the Middle East), Random_Inc, walks an entirely different path. The premise is that Meissner journeys, literally, through Arab and Israeli quarters in the embattled holy city, picking up shards of sound along the way – of people’s voices, of radio transmissions, of the air that hangs in the streets – that he then warps and filters beyond context. The conceptual separation between Jewish and Arab sounds, however, is deliberately removed – sounds are pulled and twisted into such different contexts that it’s not instantly clear upon listening which quarter, Arab or Israeli, Random_Inc is walking through. In throwing the “Which is it? One or the other?” question completely out the door, Walking in Jerusalem focuses less on divisions and cleavages as it does on unfoldings and unravelings in any number of directions. From the ground, Random_Inc says, there are infinite ways to see. At times he walks alone, while on other tracks, he travels with a companion like Dub Taylor, Electric Birds, or Tim Hecker, who tweak his work into exquisite layers of buzz, glitch, and drone.

It’s a high-minded project, and Meissner pulls it off with a grand subtlety that’s not only a theoretical and intellectual challenge, but a beautiful listen as well. In as much that this album is a very academic take on a nonlinear account of contemporary history, it’s also very much about urban spaces. “Walking in Jerusalem” is a digital portrait of a city magnified to an enormous degree, with each hugely magnified pixel taking on a massive character of its own. Meissner achieves this sonically, zooming in until we hear the very granules of glitched sound. “Random_Inc Entering Jerusalem” is a forbidding counterpoint between strings and cellos, evoking a tense air full of bickering, while Tim Hecker’s track falls beautifully apart like the breakdown of a day into evening. “Random_Inc meets Electric Birds,” with its striking repetitive tones, seems made up of ever-eclipsing crescents and currents and is somehow highly disturbing in its placidity. And The Rip-Off Artists’ track throbs with a broken-down beat that stumbles all over itself, as if on a path well-trod by countless feet for innumerable purposes, from galloping to battle to trudging solitary. Even the historical archives that Meissner draws upon are recontextualized as well – any partisanship or religious fervor contained in the samples is dissolved into smooth grayness, or a granular dustiness.

The album is characterized by the scrape and crumble of stone, or concrete rubble, or what seem to be palpable airwaves – but maybe more accurately, instead of about objects, or subjects, it’s about spaces: the spaces between cracks, open passageways and roads, alleys, corners. Even with the samples of human voice and activity – singsongs of children, bustle of market – the album feels distinctly stripped of people and of the outsized personalities that have dominated portrayals of their conflict. With the human fervency removed, we’re left with corridors and corners and ceilings: the architecture of a city, and the air that crackles through it. The album’s mood, while constantly shifting, is captured perfectly by the final lines of the sleeve notes, a quote from Eran Sachs: “The silence is more terrifying to me than those party noises. This silence can barely hide the reality beneath it.” Random_Inc sweeps away all but those silences, and they are his gifts to the listener: poetic revelations of space that are confounding, terrifying, beautiful.

By Selena Hsu

Read More

View all articles by Selena Hsu

Find out more about Mille Plateaux

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.