Monday, January 28, 2013

Motion


In the world of lowercase minimal electronic music, the work of Motion (aka Chris Coode) has long stood apart for me. Listening to his music is like looking at expert graphic design with some of its more coherent layers torn away: the elements left are skewed, dissolving shapes interspersed with wide spaces of faded texture. Lovely timbral, tonal, melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic events occur mostly by means of implication, truncated just at the point where they might coalesce, bent and warped into unexpected forms without warning. At some point I recall reading that Coode's practice is to start with a source sound, modifying it in passes that resemble the continual replication and degradation of an image on a photocopier. Indeed.

Why this stuff hasn't become some of the most talked-about work in contemporary experimental music is beyond me, but unless I've missed something, it hasn't. In any case, Motion's Every Action immediately became a desert island disc for me. I'm not necessarily saying "Buy this album now!", since it's certainly not for everybody. But I want to take a few moments to celebrate this music.

My original encounter with it was circa 2002 or so, via under-the-radar mp3 releases from nascent web labels like the venerable 8bitrecs. I quickly sought out all the Motion I could find, which led me to Every Action and its predecessor, Dust. It was very much what I was looking for at the time-- minimal but not dull or repetitive, electronic but organic, itinerant but still accessible and melodic.

I quickly snapped up all the Motion I could find-- which, unfortunately, wasn't much. I sent some fan email to 12k, releaser of all the Motion CDs to date as far as I know, and Coode graciously wrote back thanking me. But beyond those two releases, no further Motion material emerged (that I noticed, anyway). Coode released a couple CDs as the ultra-minimal techno venture Recon, and though I certainly respect an artist's will to explore other avenues, it wasn't really for me.

The other day I felt the compulsion to drop by the 12k site, which I haven't done in forever. While I was there I thought "Hey, Motion was on this label," and I decided to check out the artist page. Lo and behold, just a few days earlier 12k had released a "new" Motion disc, called Pictures. Evidently it's a release that predates the other two, long considered lost but recently found and remastered. So of course I picked it up.

The record is pretty much what a fan would expect: A proto-version of the later stuff. Same fragmented analog synth palette, tonal blobs, elemental melodic streams, and occasional rhythmic scrambles, but a little less refined and, if you will, less minimal than subsequent outings. But still, for the enthusiast, well worth hearing.

I have no idea what Chris Coode is up to these days. My Internet searches have turned up surprisingly little. I hope he's found happiness and prosperity somewhere and somehow. I'm very glad there's a new Motion record out there. I only wish there could be ten more.

Mike Hallenbeck home page

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