...his expertise in concocting unorthodox landscapes and spontaneous articulations of otherwise inexpressible insights has been proven time and again. Touching Extremes
Full of quizzical distortions and smoothing, layered synthy transgressions – you are surrounded by hypnotics from out of the gate. Toneshift
As if experiencing those SF spaces on hallucinogens Sutro Transmissions captures the breathiness of the environments, the colour and character of objects and people, and the gorgeous electromagnetic fire between them. The Wire
It all feels like it’s whirling around in the ether, but at the same time it’s all being deliberately stirred around by some invisible force. The Answer Is In The Beat
Wherever those transmissions originate from, Dimuzio’s talent is in synthesising them into his strange and exciting soundscapes. A Closer Listen
That this album was recorded live with no overdubbing (or any other players) is truly astonishing because there is just so much going on. Chain DLK
Thomas Dimuzio – justifiably called a “legend” by the label’s introductory summary – belongs nonetheless in the pool of names not immediately springing to mind when it comes to sonic innovation built upon the interpenetration of supposedly unconnected elements. However, his expertise in concocting unorthodox landscapes and spontaneous articulations of otherwise inexpressible insights has been proven time and again. Sutro Transmissions, a gorgeous example of analog synthesizer-based music, represents a quintessential reminder.
The apparatus through which Dimuzio emits transcendentally tangible matters is constituted by (drum roll, press release) “a Buchla 272e module [that] incorporates a polyphonic FM tuner introducing chance-factors snatched from live transmissions and steered via algorithmic mixing through oscillator arrays and envelope generators”. For the unacquainted, this might appear as alien language; as soon as they hear the results, all doubts are going to be extirpated.
Nothing is more beautiful than absorbing acoustic heterogeneity if the diversification is driven by the vision of an inherent logical structure. Dimuzio has produced two exceptional pieces in that sense. The conglomeration of extreme dynamics and timbral variegation systematically startles the attentive listener, even when the textural totality may suggest a “search for quietness” hypothesis. It is actually by this juxtaposition of contrasts that the necessary energies are released for the attainment of that state. Learning to distinguish and welcome diversity is never a wasted effort, especially when the forced acceptance of what’s unnatural and the effects of cyclical ordinariness become unbearable. By experiencing the depth of aural perspective provided by antithetical frequencies, irregular waves and inscrutable halos you’ll have a clear exemplification of what I’m trying to translate.
Replace the nauseating boredom generated by the self-appointed boffin of your choice with the polychromatic fibers of these sounds. Train your perception to rapidly individuate the correct direction rather than ruminating for days on something that will ultimately be revealed as entirely unfounded. Doctor Dimuzio can assist you. —Massimo Ricci
I’ve been listening to Thomas Dimuzio for over two decades, and he was already making sounds for eleven years at that point – so it’s great to catch-up with one of his ear-quenching works for early ’20 release! After some tabulation, I think Sutro Transmissions is his eighth full-length, however he’s produced countless collaborations (Dan Burke, Voice of Eye, David Lee Myers, etc) as well. The new work, an all Buchla-synthesizer album, consists of two lengthy pieces, one per side, starting with Lower Haight. Full of quizzical distortions and smoothing, layered synthy transgressions – you are surrounded by hypnotics from out of the gate.
Tweaked voices are shaken, not stirred, as if you are on radio dial hyperdrive. The ghost in the machine lurks and pivots from earshot, and once quieted fills the room with a foggy drone that elongates into sinewy shapes. This is nothing at all like his work from the mid 90’s, nor like anything previous really. Though it shows off his talent as a true sound sculptor, an artist whose modality is auditory ‘clay’ so to speak. This moves in and out of ambient and noise-driven passages with a knowing sense of grace, and a cheshire smile.
My ears detect the subtleties when he works in the more quiet areas, and offers unexpected left turns (about a dozen minutes in). This is where he really shines, like the master of one of those on-your-hind-legs horror soundtrack composers, ready to pounce at the trip of a switch. But this comes sans gore, and full of true wonderment. The entire second half are like a series of strange decoded messages floating in space.
Once we move to the b-side and Upper Haight the blurred reality of location, of grounding is even more disengaged, disrupted and otherwise a conundrum for the senses. The fluttering sounds like coagulation, as if its changing from liquid to solid state, and back again, a mid-metamorphic fluctuation. And while the piece is fully active, it stops short of being industrial or in any way derivative of something particularly machine-made. Instead, Sutro Transmissions falls in this between space that has a life of its own, with memory banks only gently hinting at buoyant humanity just outside a thin perimeter. I think I can overhear a voice saying “don’t worry”. It poses that we may just be located inside a capsule, a container of some kind. Though this doesn’t, either, come off as a trite sci-fi knock-off.
The results here are more like an old-fashioned radio play where the ear (and all senses) are fully engaged and piecing together the possibilities (up to interpretation, of course). Dimuzio has a special way of keeping the observer thinking (and listening), without tropes or overly obtuse references by way of effects-driven sound, instead he plays on nuances of the un/conscious. It’s a stunning effort that is worthy of further exploration, and deep contemplation. —TJ Norris
... Compared to these thrilling horrors, the electronic abstractions of Kishino's contemporary Thomas Dimuzio offer a nerve-calming therapy. The San Francisco artist revels in inventive methods of creating, moulding and transforming sounds. On Sutro Transmissions we hear improvisations from two SF underground venues assisted by a Buchla modular synthesizer, various intricate algorithms and compositions which are equally organic and alien, like a lower orbit of Laurie Spiegel's cosmic expeditions. The first cut "Lower Haight" crackles into being while Dimuzio gently modulates noises, grows textures and absorbs extemporaneous radio transmissions. Stray voices are deconstructed, resequenced, and embraced by elongated rings. These yearn to become arpeggios, but bubble into lower registers instead. While the music is occasionally sharper – evoking an intense bleeping and blooping computer in distress on "Upper Haight" – Dimuzio prefers cosy, slightly eerie ambience. As if experiencing those SF spaces on hallucinogens Sutro Transmissions captures the breathiness of the environments, the colour and character of objects and people, and the gorgeous electromagnetic fire between them. —Antonio Poscic
The Answer Is In The Beat
Longtime experimental musician and mastering engineer Thomas Dimuzio has been working with Buchla modular synths for some time now, and this is his first LP created entirely using the setup, edited down from two live improvisations recorded on Haight Street in San Francisco, near where the synthesizer was invented. The first side (recorded in 2018) begins with a scrambled burst of FM radio transmissions and algorithmic processes, eventually all concentrated into a drone-ray. Right when it all seems tranquil, a cosmic bubble bursts and a loud electronic interruption occurs; it’s always startling every time I listen, even when I know it’s coming. The second side, recorded three years earlier, starts out with another soup of voices, shredded tones, and scrambled frequencies, seeming to rise up in tension without settling into a proper rhythm. Still, there’s some recurring voices and tones that emerge from the sonic gumbo, including a man saying “Don’t worry” and a particularly longing vocal manipulation. It all feels like it’s whirling around in the ether, but at the same time it’s all being deliberately stirred around by some invisible force. The audio particles hold together, but infrequent infusions of static still occur, with remnants of voices allowed final chances to be heard before completely disintegrating.
A Closer Listen
All the music on A Closer Listen wishes to communicate with listeners. Some of it also thinks about communication – the processes, technologies, difficulties, and contradictions that happen when information is transmitted. Last year, one album channelled the radio waves of an imaginary abandoned village. Another album paid homage to the shortwave number stations used to send encoded messages. Traditional radio programming plays a relatively small role in twenty-first century communication. But radio remains evocative to artists. Is it the tangibility of knobs and antennae? Or nostalgia for a technological era so recently left behind?
If you're into modern experimental electronic music, there is one name in the genre you can't help but be familiar with, and that's Thomas Dimuzio. This San Francisco based artist is one of those unsung artistic figures whose influence and abilities have substantially outstripped his visibility. Composer, collaborator, experimental electronic musician, multi-instrumentalist, improviser, sound designer and mastering engineer, not to mention a major influence on other experimental electronic musicians. As a collaborator, Dimuzio has worked with numerous artists and ensembles such as Dimmer (with Joseph Hammer), Chris Cutler, Fred Frith, Dan Burke/Illusion of Safety, Nick Didkovsky, ISIS, Negativland, David Lee Myers, Matmos, Wobbly, Poptastic, Due Process, 5uu's, Tom Cora, Mickey Hart, and Paul Haslinger. I have even mentioned Dimuzio in the past for mastering some artists’ projects I have reviewed here. All this is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Dimuzio's credits sand credentials, and this is the first Dimuzio release I've had the pleasure of reviewing.