Alex White – Genuine Instability: Intensity pushed to the edge

Justice Yeldham @ Alex White’s ‘Genuine Instability’ album launch (AVANT WHATEVER), Serial Space 18.02.11 from Records: Experimental Sydney on Vimeo.

Alex White is a laptop musician from my hometown, Sydney Australia.  This is a true noise musician in the electronic style, taking pure sound and attempting to order it into some vague coherency we can call music. It’s a work of replete chaos that owes its relationship to melody completely to the art of attentive and devoted listening. He uses computer based feedback systems including frequency and playback head modulation of digital files. The systems are complex, which is part of the thrill of the sound. The order with which White will organise the sounds creates intense drone and, as the Avantwhatever website says, “doomy hung oscillations that fold in upon themselves.”

Listening to work like this is no easy matter and I confess it helps if my mood is intense. I don’t need to be in a bad mood, but I need to be feeling it with depth and passion and the music can move through me easier. There is a beauty here, if you listen openly. There is an order in the chaos that is genuinely sublime. Track one, “Genuine Instability” is a deep and dark drone of an affair providing no relief from the vehemence except for the moments of brief silence that punctuate the sound.

Track two, the wonderfully named “Customer Service Experience” is a slightly lighter affair, but interestingly, it moves into an almost unbearably cacophonous listening experience that demands a forging relationship with music. Some of the heaves and thrusts of this track almost have the personality of a voice, providing an uneasy relationship with the instrument – that 1960’s “the machine will take us over” vibe that electronic music does so well. I wondered about the name – this couldn’t be less of a customer service experience – and if it somehow related to a pent up frustration White may have had an experience of in his life?  For me, the title was perfectly matched to an overwhelming feeling of something welling up inside that can’t be released. Strangely a feeling I associate with Customer service – both as the customer and the one trying to provide service.

“Event Loop”, track three, carries more distance and therefore is a slightly easier listening experience. I don’t feel like this song is trying to beat fresh neural pathways into my brain. It could also be that by track three White has well trained the listening experience such that I don’t have to be so deeply involved. However, when I went back to – particularly track two – I found my reactions were consistent even if I knew what to expect. I know this will all be deliberate on the part of White – to give me the stomach rumbling personal and then lead me by the nose over a flimsy wall so that I have some experience of relief. Either way, I love where each of these tracks take me.  It is dark mysterious territory indeed.

Genuine Instability is available through the Avantwhatever website here.  This is one that will live happily among your collections. I have listened to it many many times.