Boomkat Product Review:
Investigating the musical possibilities of MP3 compression artifacts, Jim Reeve-Baker stitches a dream-world out of hauntingly familiar threads, using low-bitrate encoding to belch out unexpected harmonies and surprisingly colorful noise.
Like Lee Gamble's 'Diversions', this is one of those records that you'll swear must have been done before. We've been oppressed by digital compression for decades at this point; the MP3 codec has been used since the mid-1990s, and anyone who downloaded music from the internet back then will know how bad those early rips could be. This wasn't a world when you could simply boot up Soulseek and have access to a treasure trove of 320kbps gems - downloading 128kbps files was the standard, we had dial-up modems and phone bills. So hearing these oddly comforting artifacts is like time traveling; we know the sounds, but Reeve-Baker manipulates them masterfully, forming the uncanny chatter and glassy tones into nauseous, pitch-drifted symphonies.
There's a level of digital echoing that's present in all of this material. A sound appears and its ghost isn't far behind, spluttering in the background like a hollowed-out version of its former self. The MP3 was criticized in the early days because its lossy quality resulted in oddities like this that stripped the music of its roominess and soul. Here, Reeve-Baker captures the essence of an era that's rapidly being reshaped by opaque nostalgia; these weren't things we wanted, but they were the things we got, nonetheless. Turned into xenharmonic drone and noise vignettes, the sounds are given a new lease of life; we never knew we wanted to hear this, but it turns out we absolutely do. Big RIYL Oval or Microstoria.