No other release summed up 2016 for us as much as Sam Kidel’s Disruptive Muzak. When it came out in April we described it as a modern ambient masterpiece - that was before Brexit and Trump. It now feels like the most prescient record of our times...
Sam Kidel’s debut for The Death of Rave is little short of a modern ambient masterpiece. Following a celebrated debut for Entr’acte in 2015, the Young Echo and Killing Sound member’s sophomore solo album is a playful, emotive inversion and subversion of Muzak - that “background noise” variously known as “hold” music, “canned” music, or “lift” music - employing government call centre workers as unknowing agents in a dreamily detached yet subtly, achingly poignant 21 minute composition, backed with a DIY instrumental in case you, at home, want to get your phreak on.
Drawing on research by the Muzak Corporation (the company who held the original license for their eponymous product), and his concurrent interests in the proto-internet technique of phreaking (experimenting or exploring telecommunication systems - Bill Gates used to do it, and thousands of kids have probably made a prank call at some point in their time), Sam played his music down the phone to the DWP and other departments, not speaking, but recording the recipient’s responses; subsequently rearranging them into the piece you hear before you.
Aesthetically, the results utilise a range of compositional styles - ambient, electro-acoustic, aleatoric - and could be said to intersect modern classical, dub and vaporware, whilst also inherently revealing a spectrum of regional British accents rarely heard on record, or in this context, at least.
But make no mistake; he’s not making fun at the expense of the call centre workers. Rather, he’s highlighting a dreamy melancholy and detachment in their tedious roles and tortuous, Kafkaesque systems, one known from first-hand experience.
Disruptive Muzak may be rooted in academia, but it’s far from pretentious. We really don't want to give it all away, but the way in which he executes the idea, both musically and conceptually by the time the final receiver drops the line, is deeply emotive without being sentimental; making tacit comment on questioning our relationship with technology, economics and socio-politics in the UK right now: in the midst of right wing policy delivering swingeing benefits cuts and zero-hours contracts which damage those on the margins most, and a scenario where corporate composition and electronic sound form a blithely ubiquitous backdrop to capitalist realism.
Highest recommendations from us!