Changeable opinions can be expressed on Arson, except that it’s a soft listen or an easy-to-portray release. The budget of rational elbow grease necessary for its analysis is expanded by the decisive materiality of its digital impurity, a consequence of intensive computer processing. This obliterates one’s ability of delineating “orchestral” traits, as most of the aural constituents get fried in a pan of indeterminacy augmented — if needed — by pitiless noise. Tammen and Maroney — this being their second recorded collaboration besides 1999’s Billabong on Potlatch — just don’t care about comforting an audience, coldly proceeding through methods that vindicate the adjective “experimental” in comparison to the majority of what today is superficially fixed as such. Laptop-based ambient folderol this ain’t.
This does not mean that the record is not fascinating (in its own way). It’s not ugly, either, in spite of the reiterated disfigurement of the initial substances. The sources, after all, are harmonically wealthy instruments: piano and guitar, respectively “hyper” and “endangered” according to well-known definitions attributed by the artists to their main machines. The opening “Dynamo Meat” might let someone think of Conlon Nancarrow suddenly going bonkers, destroying his player piano with one hand and hitting the extreme left area of a regular keyboard with the other, while the subsequent “Harmony Dame” is a borderline expedition across squealing bowed strings and chips of normal notes, its disposition oscillating between unkeyed minimalism and compositional illegality. The title track revolves around neurotic repetitions of truncated pitches in a feverish trance; “Ornamenta” is somewhat forbidding, a spectral preamble to some sort of begrimed acoustic guerrilla. “Amnesty Dharma” sounds like the springs of an improviser’s psyche attempting to escape from the cerebral mattress, then instantly returning inside as if frightened by the hypothesis of a punishment for the rebellious act.
Clumsily challenging materials from reputable sonic questioners who fully understand the resonant properties of a given setting, but do not content themselves with instantaneous approachability. Play this CD as a mere background, and the music’s pricking temperament will irritate straight away. Sit on the sofa, turn on the brain without distractions: storms of dissonant bewilderment and slippery boisterousness will irremediably alter whatever individual perspective there is.