Review: Mark Bradley / No Mind Meditation – Split (GoldTimers, 2012)

I’m gonna start this review as suddenly as the first side of this split tape: Mark Bradley kicks things off with a rolling, kaleidoscopic synth line, which sounds like a quiz show music, the kind that plays when the players have several seconds to come up with a response or solution to a problem. It also sounds like transitory, preparation music which makes us think what else will Mr. Bradley plunge us into. And he plunges us into so many different moods and styles on this single side (none of the “movements” are titled, so this can be treated as one big whole, even considering the breaks between each movement), setting slowed-down ambient techno approximations against raw, acidic investigations not unlike the works of AFX or the sprawling, cinematic rework of the whimsical theme of the tape’s beginning with a beat added which sounds like something taken straight outta SimCity 4 soundtrack (although I’ve always dreamed about Tortoise making the music for an upcoming SimCity game, but I digress). Mark Bradley jumps effortlessly in this smooth mix from plain, ambient meadowlands into the urban swagger and shining city centers, not forgetting to jump onto the techno autobahn while travelling from one area to another.

The flipside belongs to No Mind Meditation, the more drone-oriented fellow of the two, crafting 30 minutes of pretty busy, sometimes noisy and aggravating trippertronics, sometimes recalling the multi-layered, bucolic moments of Sean McCann (sans the violins, of course), other times channeling the fluorescent, ecstatic spirit of early Caboladies. Although even NMM got the beat infection, and occasionally adorns his massive analog drones with slow, irregular beats appearing at seemingly random and uncoordinated moments. This is the rule of thumb behind this project – while it may seem chaotic and fully improvised up close, listening to the whole track (and looking at the composition as a whole) reveals the whole creative process behind it. Scraps of nearly poppy melodies will struggle to rise from the electronic magma for brief amounts of time, deformed transmissions will interfere the drones (much like on Tim Hecker’s Radio Amor). Although the No Mind Meditation side might seem incredibly chaotic and unorganized, especially compared to Mark Bradley’s precise, concise semi-compositions from the previous side, it turns out that both artists complement each other nicely. Minimalism vs. maximalism.

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