Music Reviews

Lowercase Sound

Various Artists


Lowercase isn’t just a sound. It isn’t a label, and it isn’t a genre. Lowercase is a whole aesthetic. You can’t quantify or qualify just what it is to be “lowercase,” but you’ll know it when you hear it.

This compilation was originally intended to be a small CD-R release exclusively for the members of the lowercase-sound discussion group. From these humble origins, the compilation grew to be a double CD release in gorgeous packaging. The two CDs are housed in a double gatefold box with design by Richard Chartier (who also has a track on the album.) There are 30 silver printed inserts, one for each musician and 3 featuring artwork by Richard Chartier, Josh Russell, and Steve Roden.

But even better than the packaging is the music itself. One thing that is certain of “lowercase sound”: subtly is a much-valued characteristic. A casual listen to many of these tracks will leave the listener befuddled. “What’s that twittering in the background? Maybe the stereo is malfunctioning.” A more detailed listen will uncover a whole new audio world. I’ve sworn off the microscope metaphor, but it is far too easy to use here.

If a record label comparison were applicable here, it would be Trente Oiseaux (whose boss, Bernhard Guenter is also on the album.) One draws an easy line from the nuance of the Trente Oiseaux roster to the track listing to this album. However, this compilation features many lesser-known artists, many of whom number the ranks of the lowercasesound list.

I’ve had previous encounters with some of the artists here, but it is the lesser-known pieces that really strike me. Brekekekexkoaxkoax brings a bit of heavily processed guitar that reminds me of Jeremy Boyle’s recent Songs From the Guitar Solos . Michael Northam’s “Kalpa (an excerpt)” was created by using “small speakers emitting wire drones and incidental movements recorded in a mine shaft.” The track is as listenable as its concept is beguiling. Lt Caramel delivers what sounds like a processed field recording with voices and recognizable sounds creeping into the mix.

Of course, the known artists have submitted tracks that are up to the high standard of music making that they normally are at. Taylor Deupree’s “Dopticn” is consistent with his other glitch-y work on his label, 12K. Kid606 seems to be heading in many directions lately; “done/start” is similar to his submission for the Clicks + Cuts compilation. Bernhard Guenter does what he does best, which is almost completely indescribable.

This album comes packaged with another set of both CDs in a small paper that is designed to be passes on “to another curious listener.” The whole compilation is unbelievable in form, content, and execution.

Bremsstrahlung Recordings, 1216 Essex St., San Diego, CA 92103;

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