Music for Keyboards Vol. V – Robby
September 2014 (Self-Released)
Electronic composer, d’Eon, has no lack of influence in his work. Taking themes from the whole spectrum of contemporary electronic music and integrating them into his interest in renaissance, his repertoire expands a diverse range of styles and concepts. d’Eon started gaining recognition after his 2011 split with Grimes, but his truly unique work lies in the Music For Keyboards series. The second volume took on the eccentric task of compiling 14 variations of a single Blink-182 song “What’s My Age Again.” The following installment, Volume III, completely switched directions with d’Eon composing two orchestral pieces to instill nationalism and patriotism in his home province of Quebec. The orchestra he commissioned to perform it was no other than the software, Edirol Orchestra. In the fourth volume, the renaissance inspiration was explored more in depth, but with acute attention to the contrast of tone.
In the fall of this year, the fifth volume, Robby, appeared with little notice and even less response. Regardless, Robby is d’Eon’s most emotional and thought provoking release to date. According to The Fader, d’Eon wrote this as somewhat of a preface to the album.
“It’s inspired by, and heavily samples, a real but unattributed phone system with tens of thousands of extensions serving various functions, from conference call lines to encrypted ASCII messages, sometimes actual people on the other end of the line. I take no credit for the audio samples, and I explicitly claim no affiliation with the organization running it. All samples are used without permission, but with unspeakable gratitude and respect to the operators, particularly Robby.”
Throughout Robby, the sounds and textures are influenced by the sampled phone system. The obvious moments come with the computer generated voices and dial tones that bubble to the surface, but the keyboard work that ties the whole series together, reflects the digital concepts through the chosen synthetic sounds. The tonal range is a true spectacle to behold. During “Audio CD” in particular, unusually low tones completely envelop the song giving a physical and unnerving aspect to the music. On the other end of the spectrum, the occasional piercing high pitch gives perspective to the range and efficiency of every modulated sound used.
d’Eon presents a one of a kind aesthetic through the juxtaposition of appropriation and unique production. The computer-generated voices, lifted from the phone system, work in a mocking manner in contrast to the inherent lack of emotion normally associated with them. What is usually perceived as an absence of emotion, becomes disturbingly the opposite because of the underlying feeling of intelligence. The disembodied voices give specific commands more aggressively than Apple’s Siri. From the declaration of “forever beautiful” to “we have big plans you keep trying to ruin,” d’Eon manipulates the phone system into saying distinctly human fraises. Initially, artificial intelligence attempting human behaviors does not appear original or unique, conversely the concept’s usage in music has not been significantly explored. Actually, in complete contradiction to the idea, computer generated voices are used solely for the intention of achieving a synthetic aesthetic. In James Ferraro’s exceptional ringtone collection, Eco – Savage Suite, the automated aspect of the voice is desired because of the lack of emotion associated with it. For d’Eon to use this tool in contradiction to what is expected allows for him to access even more feeling than if he was using the automated voices in the conventional way.
The usage of the “unattributed” phone system being the foundation of Robby, brings up the possibility of a comment on the NSA and data collecting. The samples themselves were collected just like the NSA; illegally and unbeknown to the victims. d’Eon mocks the process of government surveillance by doing it just as easily and applying his bounty to a comedic response.
Out of the entire, very individualized, Music For Keyboards series, Robby holds the most significance. d’Eon takes a step further beyond the beauty of the music creating a subliminal social commentary. Robby excels musically, redefines a musical concept, and address a current and relevant social issue while sacrificing nothing to the overlapping of ideas. Each of these feats can make an album and any two together can clash and lessen the others effectiveness. So for d’Eon to execute all three and suffer no set backs is truly a formidable accomplishment.
Rating: Gotta Have It