(Speaker Footage, 2013)
Imagine an album made entirely from dark matter. Seriously – what would that sound like? Creepy as anything, I would guess. And hey, I don’t even have to guess all that much! Turns out the good folks over at NASA have a pretty good handle on recording the ambient audio of outer space, and although this isn’t quite dark matter (because we can’t really pin that stuff down yet), it’s still pretty wild to hear. It also serves as a good basis for the mood that MMMOOONNNOOO is going for on The Act in Between, one of the two tapes in Danish label Speaker Footage’s sweet inaugural batch.
If you’re doing a double take at that artist name, I don’t blame you. I did myself. MMMOOONNNOOO is Lisbon-based artist Daniel Neves, and he’s pretty adept at “thickly layered noises, low-slung electronics, and hypnotic tripping loops.” Therefore, the name under which he releases his recorded output is surprisingly apt. The only way you can say it out loud (or in your head) is as deeply as possible, at the very bottom end of your voice. It’s so low, its true pronunciation is probably subatomic. Go ahead, stretch out the letters – don’t worry about Kathy in the next cubicle hearing you. She’s got her earbuds in and is softly singing Bieber tunes. You’ve already one-upped her today by bringing in your Walkman.
It would be funnier, though, if you piped The Act in Between through some decent speakers right into her personal space, because this release is enveloping and claustrophobic in all the best ways. My first inclination that this was a lost soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s Alien and/or its sequel, James Cameron’s Aliens, was “Strayed Source,” a creeping, pulsing synthesizer workout, bursting with the madness of being dangerously alone, with skittering sounds flitting through the audio conjuring the most horrible unseen creatures in the back of your imagination. The track is full of anxiety toward some unknown consciousness or event, but whatever it is, it hasn’t quite made itself known yet.
“Prelude 5B” is another in this vein, and it proves that “Strayed Source” was no fluke. Deep static shifts and overwhelms and leaves you hovering in a field of pure black tone. “Decay Movement” follows “Prelude 5B” in a similar fashion, gradually eating away at the previous track and asserting itself as the new dominant force, now with the soundtrack “BWOMs” (on a subatomic level of course) made famous in Christopher Nolan’s Inception. “Excel 1-12-2” is the sound of the chaos subsiding, leaving hulks of space junk in its wake. But of course “Tokyo One” is there to end the tape with a reminder that there is no safety, just deep, deep interstellar pulses and/or space beasties. (Hey, that’s another Nolan reference, sort of…)
Wait – this music was inspired by the entirely earthbound experience of Neves traveling from Lisbon to Tokyo for the 2014 Red Bull Music Academy? And the title is a nod to the intervening miles? Um … OK. I’m still going with my story. At least the experience resulted in a vast amount of existential dread. For the music, of course!
RIYL: Alien, Aliens, NASA recordings