August 18, 2003

Pimmon "Snaps Crackles Pops"

Now that Kid 606 has let his music descend into Plunderphonic hell and Cex has left the label to become an indie-rap sensation, not as many people seem to make a fuss about Tigerbeat6 nowadays. Two years ago, they were the kingpins of a revolution designed to bring humor and personality back into IDM. I’m not sure if the revolution’s been entirely successful or not, but you can’t say that Australian artist Paul Gough (better known as Pimmon) isn’t doing his part to uphold the cause. The title of his latest record, Snaps Crackles Pops, comes from the slogan of a breakfast cereal, for crying out loud! However, that title isn’t as much of a laughing matter as one might assume. It’s actually an appropriate name for an album sprinkled with so many hisses, whizzes, and blips that listeners might feel as if they’ve been listening to a vinyl record instead of a CD. However, this album is nothing but serious sonic manipulation, in which Gough digitally twists organic source material into otherworldly configurations. As prolific as Gough is, it comes as a surprised that this is only his second release on Tigerbeat6. However, he always seems to save his best material for this label. Snaps Crackles Pops splits the difference between the serene but diffuse ambient of Secret Sleeping Birds and his unnecessarily abrasive Assembler. It’s more beat-driven than the former, less noisy than the latter, and significantly better than both.

A common strategy of Pimmon’s is slowly drown a track’s original motif in weird effects until the end of the track sounds nothing like the beginning. Opener “No Jazz for Jokers” initially sounds like a drum circle invaded by a gamelan orchestra. As the song progresses, a flurry of chopped-up Arabic horns fades in and out of the mix, completely taking the music over by the four-minute mark. The trip-hop song that “Frosty Pink” samples is rendered unrecognizable because Gough punches it in and out so rapidly that the silence actually BECOMES the rhythm of the song. This song is also overtaken by squishy effects, which can sound like anything from tapes rewinding to crickets chirping. These sounds become more and more distorted until the whole thing sounds like sandpaper in a blender. “The King, the Eye, and the Surfboard” sounds like a tape of a jazz band rehearsing that’s been cut into pieces and rearranged at random, with all the upbeats and downbeats sounding lopsided. Gough slowly lets that backdrop be subsumed in a sea of tape hiss and over-modulated organ. Album closer “The Sacred Dance of Mimi Lush” takes what sounds like a sample from a synth-pop song and flips it in reverse. This placid loop is augmented by various low groans that sound like tapes of people talking slowed down to a crawl.

Fortunately, Pimmon doesn’t employ this strategy throughout the whole album. “In Einem Teich Des Treibstoffs” runs a flute sample through a Markus Popp-style CD-skipping effect, and segues it into a symphony of what sounds like bowed glass and church organs. “Babylon’s Burning” betrays a slight Pole influence, with minimal bass, muted guitar, and the rhythm of the song being dictated entirely by clicks and pops. “Over the Black Dot” finds a groove that you can dance to and rides it for four and a half minutes, never letting the squishy sound effects completely dominate. I can imagine a more adventurous DJ playing this song during a rave. Then again, I’ve only been to one rave and it sucked, so maybe I’m giving that scene a bit too much credit. Anyway, Snaps Crackles Pops gives me precisely what I want from contemporary IDM: sounds that I can’t describe easily, shoehorned into memorable, evocative structures that I can (occasionally) dance to (if I’m feeling particularly spastic).

---Sean Padilla

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