Putting the name of TJ Norris as the artist for this disc borders on being a misnomer. Even in the liner notes and accompanying press materials, it simply says that it was “Compiled by…” Mr. Norris.
I think that is selling his role too short in the creation of this disc. The music on here was commissioned by Mr. Norris to help inspire a series of short films that he made in and around his hometown of Portland, Ore. (an accompanying DVD features the films in question).
After he was done making the films, Norris then had the original music tracks remixed by another series of artists for use in the installations that he set up using the films that he had created. That music is what is compiled on this CD.
I give Norris much of the credit for the creation of this music, even if he didn’t play one note to be found here. Without his art, the fulcrum of this wide ranging collection of electronica would never have been created, nor would it have the stark, empty feeling, a feeling that seems to have been, in part, inspired by his film and photo work.
This isn’t to denigrate the creative elements of the original artists or the remixers. They do an amazing job of providing the perfect soundtrack for the desolate industrial imagery of the films, as well as showing off their ability to turn that imagery on its head and in on itself.
The best work on this disc are those tracks that are freed up of traditional modes of songwriting, shuddering with drones, high-pitched squeals, and other found sounds. Scanner – as remixed by Nobukazu Takemura – does much to weave a intricate pattern using thick swathes of fuzz and low hums interspersed with noisy shortwave radio transmissions. It’s as enrapturing a track as either artist has created throughout their careers.
Norris even has the concept go even further ahead, having the artist Troum take samples of all nine original compositions and meld them together into an expansive mosaic that is amazingly difficult to turn away from.
If nothing else, Norris should have his name front and center on this disc for having the ability to come up with a high-minded concept and see it all the way to fruition and beyond. There are far too few artists and musicians willing to take dangerous and unsure steps like TJ Norris has on this collection.
TJ Norris: www.tjnorris.net