Boomkat Product Review:
One of Keith Fullerton Whitman’s earliest and most loved releases, Playthroughs is a properly absorbing modern classic of systems-based music - a prime, early example of the American avant-garde maverick’s experimental composition process that follows in the footsteps of Steve Reich’s phasing or Terry Riley’s Time Lag Accumulator. Call it ambient, post post-rock, electro-acoustic or whatever you want - to us it’s just simply beautiful.
Originally released by Kranky in 2002, Playthroughs has quietly held its place as a standout in Fullerton Whitman’s swelling catalogue, an album which, no matter how many times you listen to it, transports the listener away from everyday logic into a gently chaotic dreamworld that you’ll rarely tire of visiting.
As his first album proper (not counting CDr’s) under his own name, it was the first time many folk heard Fullerton Whitman’s deconstructionist approach to the guitar, which he had been developing as part of numerous bands, as well as playing solo, during the ‘90s. By the time it was recorded in 2001, he had fully gotten ahead of his instrument, using a unique chain of guitars-FX-software to render its feedback in a new dreamlife of incredibly lush, dense, inharmonic convolution and rhythmic complexity with butterfly effect-like technique.
While he certainly wasn’t the first to use the guitar “incorrectly”, or specifically in this way, Fullerton Whitman was among the earliest to use software algorithms to open it up to new dimensions of tonal possibility, and among the first to spend long enough immersed in that system to intuitively exert artistic control over the results.
Those results, from the pink-hued keen of Track3a (2waynice), to the breathtaking curdle of Freedback Zwei, the cosmic slosh of Fib01a, and the fluctuating, brownian bleep meters of Modena, are some of the most ingenious and spellbinding examples of systems music we've heard this century.