thomas dimuzio

gench/rer megacorp

2004 CD


play | buy


“Intermittently brilliant and rarely less than entertaining.” — Peter Marsh, BBC

“ ...Slew is filled with tracks that demand full attention— even during their quietest moments, instances which tend to gently shimmer to a scalding boil. ” — Pitchfork Media

“ ...reminiscent of similarly generated "Music from the Hearts of Space" on radio station KPFA in the 1970s.” — Leonardo

“ enjoyable listening experience into the worlds of sampling-based sound art and organized noise.” — All Music Guide

“ ...Dimuzio is easily at his best when creating "drones", or when exploring the "elementary details" of an evolving situation.” —Clouds And Clocks


When AC/DC suggested that "Rock n Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" they weren't being entirely honest. Noise (in the sense of non-pitched, extramusical sounds) is not only an essential part of Rock N' Roll (where would Hendrix or Townshend been without feedback?), it's now a genre in its own right.

John Cage felt that noise was equal to any other sound, which I suppose stopped it being 'noise' (in the sense of being unwanted or undesirable). On the other hand, the new kids on the noise scene embrace its power to annoy, excite and cleanse. Revelling in extremes of distortion, volume and frequencies that can damage your ears or even (as has sometimes been claimed) open your bowels, the work of outfits like Merzbow, Whitehouse and the like couples sonic terrorism with often dubious sadomasochistic imagery. At the other end of the scale, there's the considered feedback manipulations of Otomo Yoshihide and Kevin Drumm, or the electro-acoustics of serious composers like Luc Ferrari, Stockhausen et al. Noise is a broad church.

Thomas Dimuzio is kind of in the middle, straddling the worlds of electro-acoustics, avant electronics and free improv in the same way that John Oswald and Bob Ostertag do. This CD brings together work recorded for various compilations over the last fourteen years and suggests that Dimuzio is just as important (and possibly more rewarding to listen to) than John and Bob.

Without the conceptual baggage of Oswald or the explicit politicking of Ostertag, Dimuzio is left with just his sounds. Whether generated by musicians like avant rockers Dr Nerve or the late cellist Tom Cora or extracted from shortwave radios, feedback, guitars or field recordings, Dimuzio treats them with care. Dr Nerve are transformed into an amped up chamber orchestra playing Penderecki in a watery cave underneath a building site. Its lush, surprising, sensual stuff and at under six minutes, criminally short.

Elsewhere Dimuzio gives us glacial drones, the random fuzz of shortwave radios or the feral blasts of junkyard electronics; insectoid scratches, blasts of clipped distortions and the forlorn clang of an abused piano. Like the fantastically underrated Mnemonists, his work has a narrative, filmic tug that'll draw you in to its dark corners, ears alert. Intermittently brilliant and rarely less than entertaining. —Peter Marsh, BBC

Pitchfork Media

Attending a Thomas Dimuzio performance is like lying underneath a web of freeway bridges with your eyes closed; blocking out all visuals except the brief daggers of light that flicker with each passing car. There is a sense of probable dread—metal, wooden or cigarette debris from the vehicles could fly off and injure you- but also one of hypnotized calm, thanks to the amplified hum of Michelin and Goodyear against greased concrete. Dimuzio, a San Francisco electro-noise composer, seemingly replicates this experience with massive, body-vibrating drones punctuated by abrupt, skreeing hits of white noise. His improvised performances—usually performed with guitar feedback and short-wave radio files processed with a laptop and CDJ player-explore the gray area between tranquility and disarray, and they can draw your imagination into a wilderness it will refuse to leave, even when your nerves are shot by so many conflicting emotions.

Slew compiles the veteran's 14 years' worth of compilation tracks, which range between hallucinatory dronescapes and jolted short-wave experiments. The album is a sequel to Dimuzio's fine 2002 compilation, Mono::Poly, which features collaborations with notable noiseniks like Chris Cutler, Atau Tanaka, and Fred Frith—plus his document of DJ QBert taking musical brown acid. Like any Dimuzio record, Slew is filled with tracks that demand full attention—even during their quietest moments, instances which tend to gently shimmer to a scalding boil.

"Never Steven" opens Slew, and sets its mood. A remix of Dr. Nerve's "44 Nerve Events", the track is jumpstarted by a psycho-traumatic guitar rummaging through junk metal percussion and cricket-chirp microtones that kick in like a state of numb and blissful physical shock. "Radiotraces", Dimuzio's remix of avant-cellist Tom Cora, disrupts that peace with emotionally perplexed string melodies that seem to be stranded in the middle of the sea.

The rest of Slew never releases that tension. On "Usher Substart"—a suitable tune for a compilation titled Soundtrack for the End of the World—Dimuzio concocts a ringing and crescendo-rising drone from an electric guitar and a clarinet that resembles a field recording of an industrial neighborhood slowly melting in a thermonuclear firestorm. "Hinge Map Ridge" and "Zero Tolerance" also nod off to a bell-like drone, but in a more rhythmic and meditative light. "4 Poles" brilliantly unleashes fragmented, baby grand piano that skitters between stereo channels while the humidity soaks the walls with a soft, greenhouse din created from nothing more than feedback. "Untitled", which uncannily recreates a sweatshop atmosphere out of feedback and metallic noises that mimic a dozen sewing machines' ticktacking needles jammed with ripped hair and caked dust. And then there's "Turnkey (Onionhouse)", which dances in the acid-rainwashed streets with scrambled shortwave vocals and DSP'd beats that drag their bleeding feet.

Folks who consider drone music to be monotonous or pharmaceutically bastardized should obviously keep their distance from Slew. But Dimuzio's work doesn't require any postmodern conceptual disclaimer that must be read to understand any of his music—it is to be felt. Whatever your tastes may be, please consider his musique concrete zinger "Yard". Here, he gold-pans away the grime of an air conditioner drone and discovers a looped piece of gibberish from what the liner notes attribute to an Elvis impersonator in a parade. What sounds like Ben Ali go-carts then circle around and mutates into lawn sprinklers. So alien. (8.3) —Cameron Macdonald


A difficulty inherent in this genre of electroacoustic music—its sources often sine wave generator or radio waves—are its inevitable science fiction associations. An interesting whirring animates "4 Poles" to suggest a black hole or collapsing suns emitting its radio signals, and in "Usher Substart" a tone gradually builds to suggest the traversing of and deep space. Much of the collection is reminiscent of similarly generated "Music from the Hearts of Space" on radio station KPFA in the 1970s, perhaps that decade's New Age equivalent to Korla Pandit's mysterious 1950s organ stylings. Thomas Dimuzio may blame the reviewer for dwelling on such visual associations from his music as he also works to subvert or re-imagining them. The sense of awe set up in "Never Steven" gets punctured with dynamic sweeps across the speakers. "Zosz" sounds like experiments in breathing and speaking underwater, or the great snake at the end of the universe. "Radio Traces" begins with a string quartet then threatened by distant cloud activity until an abrupt stop. "Yard" has a heroic centurion theme and looped voices, while an untitled piece with collaborator Needle suggests rattling worry beads. Other tracks have obscure voices, somber mood sweeping, and the sound jetting across speakers. Yet long passages in works like the 12'40 "Lightswitch" are uneventful and faceless to the point of anonymity and audial invisibility. —Mike Mosher

All Music Guide

As its subtitle indicates, Slew is "a compilation of compilation tracks," packaging together most if not all of Thomas Dimuzio's contributions to compilations between 1990 and 2004. The tracks range from the largely available "Never Steven" (from the Cuneiform CD Transforms: The Nerve Events Project) and "Radiotraces" (from Tzadik's Tom Cora tribute Hallelujah, Anyway) to obscure cuts previously released on tiny labels such as Generator Archives, Alku, Gench, and RRRecords. The track list ignores chronology to favor a more naturally flowing sequence that sees the music shift gradually from electro-acoustic works based on electric instruments to electronic/computer pieces having shortwave, sine waves, or white noise at their heart. Falling in the latter category, "Don't Shop My Skulls" and "M375," the last two pieces, are the only tracks previously unreleased. "M375" would soon come out on a RRRecords comp, while "Don't Shop My Skulls" had been created for the unreleased Toyo project 20 Second Comp. Nothing here equals in strength the music on Headlock, Dimuzio's crowning achievement, but weak tracks are rare and the album as a whole offers a nice flow, enough for an enjoyable listening experience into the worlds of sampling-based sound art and organized noise. All tracks have been remastered and in some cases, like "Never Steven," the results are impressive. Other highlights include the 13-minute "Lightswitch" (by far the longest piece of the set) and "Monaural." Not an essential item or the best place to discover Dimuzio's art, Slew is more for connoisseurs looking for a fix between releases by this slow-working soundsmith. —Francois Couture

Clouds And Clocks

I'm gonna admit that, lately, something peculiar keeps happening to me: while listening to a record, I find myself absently staring into the void, then asking myself this question: "who could be the right listener for this album?". (Being aware that times have indeed changed makes it difficult for me to ask "who could possibly buy this album?", the "listener" already being an increasingly rare specimen.) This thoughts occur to me a propos of different musical "genres", but definitely when it comes to "electronic music". On one hand, in fact, fans of the "genre" are not a few. But the trends that I increasingly see as prevailing (in a numerical sense) are those that keep an eye (or maybe two) on the dancefloor; and those that - thanks to increasingly powerful laptops - mix image and sound; both tend to negate the importance of musical research and experimentation - exactly those traits that have always represented the promise that electronic means of music making have to keep. This, in a market where the (over)abundance of available titles is definitely not demand-driven!

Not exactly a hardcore fan, but definitely more than a passer-by, I have to say that I liked this recent compilation by Thomas Dimuzio, an American musician whose recorded output had not previously been unknown to me but whom I had really appreciated for the first time with the release of Quake (1999) and Dust (2002), the two albums he recorded with "electrified drummer" Chris Cutler. Here Dimuzio demonstrated he possessed uncommon musical qualities - and fast reflexes - in a conversation where he synthesized, sampled and treated with a good sense of direction. Subtitled A Compilation Of Compilation Tracks 1990-2004, Slew assembles tracks recorded by Dimuzio for inclusion on miscellaneous CDs. Though quite some time separates the earliest tracks here from the most recent, finding a clear stylistical thread is not too difficult. Dimuzio has sampled and processed a variety of materials, all mentioned in the booklet's inner spread. Coming from the (I suppose) already familiar Transforms: 44 Nerve Events Project, Never Steven uses Doctor Nerve fragments, while the following track, Radiotraces, which starts with the easily recognizable cello played by the sadly departed Tom Cora, was originally featured in the memorial album titled Hallelujah Anyways.

To put it in a nutshell, I'd say Dimuzio is easily at his best when creating "drones", or when exploring the "elementary details" of an evolving situation. His way of assembling materials is elastic enough as to leave the listener some freedom, but not so much as to give him the whole responsibility of finding meaning in the music. Old tracks such as Lightswitch (1990), with its rare use of vocals, and Zosz ('91), are good. I also found both Usher Substart and 4 Poles, the latter with the ghostly echo of ragtime piano, quite convincing. The beautiful drones of Hinge Map Ridge and Zero Tolerance are, in a way, the peaks of the album. I was left unconvinced by the brief more rhythmic tracks that appear at the end of the album. —Beppe Colli