Art Simon

More of the Same (CD)

>Slightly song-oriented but always aggressive, Art Simon has assembled a collection of pieces which sometimes bludgeon, sometimes soothe, but are always f*cking with you head in some capacity. The CD sampling on "Part 5" is a particularly nasty trick - he skips one, while a synthetic drone remains constant, but buried, in the background. It took me a few minutes to realize that it wasn't the CD player doing it. Nice one, this certainly falls outside of both aggro/cyber and experimental genres, making it one of the more original electronic explorations I've heard. Packaged in textured wallpaper, which is a definite plus - candy for the eyes, hands, and ears. (Brain Scan #2)

>Harsh compositions of computer, guitar, and theremin. Absolutely no pretense towards traditional song structure, and not meant for relaxation. The pieces have no perceivable direction and no resolution, rather they exist in and of themselves, living somewhere in that gray boundary between self-indulgent noise and artistic expression. (Thad Engeling, ND #21)

>Coming in a slim DVD case are two discs by Art Simon, who performs all alone on guitar and MIDI Theremin and, additionally, programs computers. It must be immediately told that this is not a milestone, but somehow I managed to find some interesting trace in this strange pastiche (wondering if this is involuntary). Imagine a concoction that, in a low-budget setting, tries to fuse sparse components of Frippertronics, early David Torn and Muslimgauze over basic tracks built upon drum machine patterns that range from spastic meters to pseudo-techno. Throw in distortion - lots of it - and a pinch of space rock attitude; the result is not what one usually needs for a tranquil afternoon and furthermore, in several occasions, a slight measure of dilettantism can be smelled. Still, certain combinations of dirty resonance and Theremin warble produce strangely appealing gradations, thus delivering the music from the "pale imitation" yoke. Indeed, looking for something nice to be said, most of this material sounds bizarrely unique despite the similarities shown by its constituting elements. A release that slips in just by a hair, given its curious mixture of naiveté and cheap noise-making, where substance might be detected in spurts. Maybe a single CD would have worked better. (Touching Extremes)

>Art Simon is a California-based guitarist that augments his playing with MAX programming and a MIDI Theremin. 'More Of The Same' is a professionally manufactured CD that features some rather totemic work and is supplemented by an extra CDr of reprisals and bonus material. The Opcode applications seem to focus on drum sounds and Simon's guitar work is heavily treated, falling somewhere between prog-rock and ambient musics. He's more of the Fripp/Torn school than he is of the Frith/Bailey persuasion, but that doesn't diminish his exploratory demeanor. There's no doubt that the man can play, but sustaining interest and making the elements work together is the real challenge at hand here. The extended first number works some atmospheric magic that cloaks Simon's fret-work in an ethereal haze despite some awkward drum programming. Dramatically, the piece fares well as a tension-building composition that never reaches a climax and thus needs no resolution. It's not merely a drone piece, but more like seventeen minutes of onanistic angst. Simply reduce the role of the percussives and we may have a more intriguing work or at least a decent soundtrack for some intense erotica. 'Part 3' dispenses with any identifiable guitar sounds and delves into more digital territory that may appeal to Fennesz fans but doesn't really have the opportunity to develop into anything significant, given its brevity. The next track works in some tasty feedback and lovely drone action which could have made my day, until more electro-percussives surfaced. Why? This piece could have stood perfectly on its own without even a hint of drums. It's superfluous to say the least, and downright obtrusive at any rate. On the other hand 'Part 5' would not have worked without the rhythm programming. It not only propels the track, but provides a certain identity to it. The beats are both constructive as they are deconstructed. Nothing hangs around for too long as the melodic elements try to establish themselves to no avail, and any attempts at dancing should prove to be awkward if not futile. It's catchy as hell in my book, but I'm not known for conventional listening and have a penchant for dancing that resembles an Epileptic having a bad day. The last nine minutes are given over to Simon's avant-rock tendencies. The stop-start aesthetic here is both endearing and annoying, like some of the later efforts of King Crimson with Bill Bruford on crack. I think some other rock geek once said 'shut up and play your guitar.' The second disk or bonus CDr seems to draw on material from the first disk with varying degrees of augmentation. Some sort of digital dumbek is employed on the first track, which I find a little off-putting. The sampling is good enough, the guitar playing is stellar and the rhythmic work doesn't suck, but the overall vibe just ain't working for me. However, the second track does work for me like a vintage Organum piece may, but gets truncated after only a couple of minutes as opposed to the twenty(+) minutes that it should have been. Hand-drum samples resurface on the third piece and actually work pretty well with the guitar wankery, aesthetically but not rhythmically. The loops are square and so is Simon's guitar work, but on separate pages so to speak. Track four bubbles with some stock synth patches and droll e-drum programming. It's unobtrusive enough but fails to spark any interest over this way. Although the fifth piece evokes a bit of Four Tet's better moments, let it be known that a good melody and cleverly sampled African drums do not necessarily a good joint make. Such drumming proves even more unnecessary on the Eno-inspired piece that follows. Agitated guitar work should dominate the seventh track, but those damned drum samples muck up the works again. Finally, the ten-minute closer rides the drone/feedback wave out to shore and shoves the drum-box to the curb. This is a gorgeous bout of treated guitar that melts the cords and wakes up those folks that think Stars Of The Lid are the only game in town. If I seem overly-critical of Simon's other tracks, it's because I think tracks like this are his strong suit.These two pups come pouched in a DVD-sized slim-line double-disk housing unit from a label with an interesting roster. Simple, but worth your attention. My hopes for the future is that Mr. Simon will explore his axe more than his Mac. I'd hire this guy in a heartbeat to play in my imaginary rock band. Even moreso, I'd love to hear what he would do in a live, improvised setting. What do I know? (Heathen Harvest)