Boomkat Product Review:
Notorious Swiss artist Anton Bruhin uses Fruity Loops presets to create absurdist videogame music and bizarre, robot poetry that exploits the limitations of the DAW's rudimentary speech synthesis. One of the weirdest records we've heard this year, like James Ferraro or Oneohtrix Point Never minus the cynicism.
Bruhin has been working as a visual artist, musician and poet since the 1960s, and is best known for his mastery of the jew's harp, his tape music collages and his witty pixel art drawings of European landscapes and architecture. His art is varied, but unified by a few simple themes - humor, surrealism and a distinctly DIY aesthetic. "Speech Poems / Fruity Music" is no different, and the 26 vignettes presented here were made between 2006 and 2008, making use of Fruity Loops' quirky, user-friendly sequencing capabilities and its barely-used text-to-speech synthesizer.
Bruhin quickly realized that the synthetic voice was programmed to understand English, so to make it speak German he had to train it using English phonetics. On 'aughntone brooheene', we hear the artist challenging the program to say his name correctly, and the rest of his speech poems continue to explore the limitations and quirks of the robotic voice. Many of the poems are gibberish - collections of sounds and syllables that force the voice synthesizer to make almost human-like sounds and errors. It's an inventive way to emphasize the link between the human programmer and the workhorse binary tool, and doesn't need to invent an overblown AI PR campaign in the process.
The musical portion of the album is even better, as Bruhin pushes Fruity Loops away from its intended function, making use of extreme pitch bends and tempos to accentuate the artificiality. By his point in his career, Bruhin had already explored human music, so this feels like an attempt to fully grasp (and subvert) the synthetic. The songs are cute, using synthesized accordion and harpsichord sounds that end up mimicking early-1990s RPG soundtracks. It's light hearted, but makes solid points and deductions about computer music, synthesis and the cultural shifts of the last few decades. It's also genuinely funny, which is way too rare.