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of Storybook and Sound (IDMf043) by RFJ March 17, 2014

Posted by Roo Stercogburn in Uncategorized.
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of Storybook And Sound

of Storybook And Sound

Release Date: 26 January 2014
All tracks written and produced by RFJ
Mastering: Ben “Benwaa” Walthew
Label: IDMf Netlabel

Download at http://idmfnetlabel.bandcamp.com/album/of-storybook-and-sound-idmf043

Forum thread at http://www.idmforums.com/showthread.php?t=129326

This was released over a month ago, so this post isn’t exactly up to the minute. I freely admit its taken me a while to get around to this. I knew I was going to need some proper sitdown time to give this the attention it deserves. That would be now.

I liked this EP.

I made a point of listening without having read the accompanying PDF which gives insight into RFJ’s background. That was for after. Partly I feel that music should be able to stand on its own, partly I wanted to experiment on myself to see if it changed my experience. I’ve also avoided the growing thread on the IDM forums so that my response is not coloured by what’s written there. So: 2 listens through entire EP, read accompanying PDF, then some more listens.

There are 5 tracks on here and the thing I noticed most is how restrained they are. This is not in-your-face, max-out-the-loudness nonsense. There is subtlety, atmosphere and sense of disconnection, the feeling that emotions are out of phase with reality. For the most part, there’s a feeling that the brain cannot quite process what is going on around it.

The first four tracks are full of glitchy breakbeats, ambient sound, child sounds processed and repeated. On first listen I didn’t find much to massively distinguish one from another but was struck by the great continuity. Second listen, the details started to come through more and each piece of music started to become its own, especially in the last 2 tracks.

Interestingly, everything seems to come to a resolution by the 5th track, ‘Morning’ and the feeling that if not an actual happy ending, there’s a place where peace can be found, an equilibrium.

By the end of the second listen it became clear that “A Narrow Escape” and “Morning” are easily the stand-out tracks here. Absolutely marvelous.

So, the PDF…

This is not a happy story. There’s a subtle warning in the title, a child’s storybook. I’d prefer not to reveal the contents, suffice it to say its a real journey and its harrowing. One of the things I took from this was actually a background detail – the wife in the story appears to have more ‘stand by your man’ than most anyone I’ve read about. What comes through strongest is how much the author hates himself (or former self), it feels like an exposition of sins so that the reader can really get a good grip on hating the author. Lay it all bare, flay the author, be reborn. Wear the self-loathing of former self like a shield because no matter how much anyone hates on the author, nobody can hate  the author more than the author himself.

In light of having read this, on with further listening.

Much of it now comes into sharp focus. The sense of disconnection is stronger and you know the reason. The sounds of children change from random children to suffering family, their pleas not directed at some unseen source but at the author/writer, their pain and confusion now thrown into sharp relief.

I would say that listening after reading the story changes the experience, not in direction but in depth. It lends clarity to some of the content. My opinion and enjoyment of the tracks didn’t massively change, just my understanding of the content. It certainly lent more weight to the tracks.

So does it work? Yes. Stand-alone without the story it works, it just gains sharpness once you know the background. Often our enjoyment of music is related to association with memory and events that may have been occurring at the time we first heard that music – a film, a nightclub, a café, etc. Going into this EP, I was concerned that the music might not work without the story, just like some film soundtracks are ok with the film itself but fall flat on their faces when listened to as stand-alone works. Happily that is not the case here, this is a very enjoyable EP.

Good solid work with a great ending, music-wise anyway. Stories never end even when the book does.

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