Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. II pays a return visit to the otherworldly noumenal ecosystem inside Rashad Becker's head, relaying indecipherable messages in something resembling an expressive language of psychoacoustic, cuneiform glyphs. No Rosetta Stone is required to comprehend these deeply abstract auditory tableaus; all you need is an open mind and functioning set of lugs for reception, whilst whatever counts for your sense of consciousness will fill in the gaps, and that’s where the “fun” starts.
Working at near pre-cognitive levels of sensation and perception, Becker’s self-built semi-modular system generates a genuinely bewildering syntax of non-standard tunings. meters and scales which are perhaps best reflected in the synaesthetically attuned visual terms of Bill Kouligas’ incredible, calligraphic artwork, which becomes legible only thru a process of simultaneously concentrating and defocussing the eyes until the text’s elliptical, layered convolutions appear to begin to animate themselves in a similar way to how Becker’s phrases can be said to resemble a sort of channelled EVP babble.
When applying that perceptive process to the structural, sculptural sounds of Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. II the listener effectively opens a bridge into other, heightened modes of synaesthetic perception, as if the sounds are just so damn weird and alien that you’re relying on pure sense alone and effectively able to see in the dark, feeling your way thru like some intrepid field recorder who’s just stumbled across these unprecedented Themes and ritual Dances in a world that operates under ultraviolet light.
In the best way, it’s highly likely that a lot of listeners copped the 1st volume on the basis of Becker’s unparalleled reputation as the best ears in the biz, and rightly so. But at the risk of being presumptuous, some people were perhaps expecting something akin to a putative, modern ‘Berlin sound’, i.e. minimal or dub techno. In all fairness they did receive a ‘Berlin sound’, but it’s one that draws on dub as much as extreme avant-garde performance art and the infinite politics of equality and democracy, and plays deep into a conception of techno at its broadest definition as a form of folk or Traditional music.
All eight pieces are titled in a direct continuation of the first volume and follow a similar sort of stylistic declension or cryptic, anarchic set of rules. On the one hand, his Themes feel to be elegant, stately, almost like curdled Korean classical court music played by a troupe of acid pygmys, or gamelan forged with unknown metals and played by unimaginable, amorphous limbs, used for any number of formal and informal purposes. On the other hand, his Dances are defined in surreal, unconventional polymetrics, ranging from what sounds like a fertility ritual for prehistoric, feathered creatures, to some of the most mind-bending, polyphonic acid sloshed in psychoacoustic portamentos, and thru to scenes of inimitably detailed, discordant chatter that sounds like harps attached to didgeridoos played by land-lubbing octopuses.
Becker has patently conceived one of the most fantastic, imaginative records of this century so far. And more than anything, you get the sense that this is a personal endeavour first and foremost - perhaps a way to keep music, or sound in the widest terms, fresh to an artistic sensibility and set of ears which have processed nearly 1600 releases thru his esteemed mastering and vinyl cutting work at D&M, Berlin, if Discogs is to be believed - but it’s also one which is at the service of a much bigger picture, suggesting it may be much better for everyone to imagine rather than remember.