Boomkat Product Review:
Ravishing, hyperkinetic AI brilliance from Emptyset, really baring their teeth after the electro-acoustic probes of 2017’s ‘Borders’
Edging ever closer to a post-human conception of sound composition, artist/scientist/researcher types Paul Purgas and James Ginzburg advance from the detectably acoustic tonalities of ‘Borders’ into an unapologetically and strangely poignant futurist sound sphere with their 6th album, ‘Blossoms’. At the core of the duo’s newfound energies lies the emergent consciousness of a machine learning system which they fed with more than 10 hours of racket made on wood, metal and drum skins. The highly dynamic results are effectively the software’s efforts to make sense of their input, and arguably amount to the project’s most thrilling album, bar none.
Developed thru a process of “seeding a software model with a sonic knowledge base of material to learn and predict from”, the duo’s primitivist, haptic, fleshly actions become entangled in a virtual world that ultimately manifests a non-human musicality. Convulsing in 10 succinct parts, the AI’s personality emerges as a synthesis of its parents’ characteristic tastes, resembling a bastard golem or cranky virtual spirit that really errs to the darkside of feelings associated with AI, as opposed to the church/folk-reared and “friendly” aspects of AI explored by, say Holly Herndon’s Spawn, or the more ambiguous styles conjured by TCF’s AI familiar, TCF X (run go check his YT channel!).
Of course, there’s a certain level of discrete manipulation by Purgas and Ginzburg at play in the arrangements (they are still credited with writing and production), but we’re fucked if we can point out where the human and AI inputs begin and end. From the shearing metal tones of ‘Petal’ to the guttural eruptions of ‘Blossom’ and the curiously human-like cadence of ‘Pollen’, thru the bittersweet harmonic shifts of ‘Blade’ and bone-twisting torque of ‘Stem’, we get the feeling that Emptyset have achieved an real ideal of relinquishing control of their music and becoming the ghost in their own machine, and it’s a visceral, vivid pleasure to experience them doing so.