Album Reviews

Icarus – Fake Fish Distribution

(Not Applicable) UK release date: 6 February 2012

Over the last decade London based duo Ollie Bown and Sam Britton have released several albums of electronic music under the Icarus name that push against the boundaries of the genre, resulting in consistently individualistic and inventive results. 2004’s I Tweet The Birdy Electric may still be the piece of work they are most readily associated with but that may soon change with the release of their ninth album Fake Fish Distribution.

It was created using special generative, parametric music-making software that accurately reflects the broader musical interests and creative outlook held by the pair (Bown has designed autonomous improvising music software systems while Britton studied electronic music and composition at IRCAM in Paris and has also worked with the London Sinfonietta).

Fake Fish Distribution has been released as a limited edition of 1000 numbered copies, each version comprising eight tracks that, although identically named, are totally unique in sound (this review is based on version 500). It’s a thought-provoking concept that could signal another direction that improvised, experimental music could move in. Musically it recalls elements of Squarepusher, Autechre and Four Tet while more contemporary points of reference would be artists like Clark, Crewdson and to a lesser degree Dalglish.

Opening track Dumptruck Cannibals is centred around plumes of distortion and clusters of irregular beats, with fragments of radio transmitted speech sewn into the electronic fabric of the track, resulting in a dense and at times claustrophobic listen. The relative stillness and oscillating tones of Shallow Tree eventually give way to Spineez Of Breakout, with its soft veneer of textural electronic beats and subtle ambient sounds, that seem to sketch out the contours of rising and falling rhythms. Occasionally they are broken up by a malfunctioning bleep, another reminder of the album’s computer-assisted origins. Colour Field’s scattered, clattering micro-percussion isn’t too dissimilar in style and begins to hint at common themes, suggesting that album may be better viewed as one continuous piece rather than several tracks.

Elsewhere, Old D has a peculiarly listing quality to it, almost as if the music itself has become temporarily unwell while final track Two Mbiras shows off a more bass-centred sound, although still creaking, restless and jarring. These are perhaps the two pieces that show their origins most unambiguously.

Subsequent listens to other versions of the album (numbers 100 and 200 specifically) reveal some tracks to have undergone minor adjustment, retaining key, identifiable motifs, whereas others bear little resemblance to their counterparts. Although conceptually forward-thinking and original, importantly the music is of similar standard and will prove to be an interesting listen for fans of electronic music released on labels like Warp. The album also casts light on wider subjects like music ownership and digital formats and to an extent it also promotes discussion over the role and nature of writing about music – each listener will have their own personal listening experience that maybe requires reviews to be approached in a different, more flexible way.

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Icarus – Fake Fish Distribution