Monday, 13 June 2011

Seth Horvitz

I recently received an album by Seth Horvitz in the post, Eight Studies for Automatic Piano, which is, as the title implies, eight studies for automatic piano. I recognized Horvitz's name, but it took me a while to place it - the man behind pioneering glitch and microhouse project Sutekh.

Sutekh was always about more than house, his filigree (algo)rhythms ideally suited to the conceptual playground of Mille Plateaux and Force Inc, but he was best suited to working in 4/4. He was relatively prolific in 1998-2000, when I first got into electronic music, and I picked up a stack of his 12"s from shops all over Tokyo.

His sound seemed to strike a chord with Japan at the time, certainly with me and my then-new surrounds; I felt it perfectly represented the fast-paced neon-drenched environment of the megalopolis, all sharp angles, clockwork regimentation and complex sound design.

I saw Sutekh live in 2001 in Tokyo at Club Asia, and it was an interesting set, more suited to stationary head-nodding than dancing, but that's no complaint. Far more stripped down and earnest than was usually played in Tokyo, even by with-it hipsters. Highlight was 'Untitled #3' from his Force Inc LP Periods Make Sense, a superlative example of raw, chilly microhouse, its influence audible in contemporary productions by DJ Koze, Matthew Dear's False and countless Minus cookie-cutouts, and the Giegling roster.

Now's as good a chance as any to link to this incredible live set by Kettenkarussell. I've listened to this often, and it proved a particularly stirring soundtrack to a long drive down snow covered mountains in rural Victoria. Get it from mnmlssgs here:

Back to Horvitz, it's interesting to hear him doing new stuff, especially for computer-generated piano - a favoured medium of mine. He joins Wolfgang Voigt in the pantheon of techno - computer-piano producers, and sits alongside such heavyweights as Conlon Nancarrow and Rytis Mazulis. It's not Horvitz's first foray into the 'classical' realm, last year's On Bach by Sutekh took that crown, but this hems more closely to classical instrumentation than did that digital Wendy Carlos update.

First listen revealed a simplicity and minimalism not present in any of the works by those composers listed above. As the title implies, each track explores a specific idea, Horvitz keeping these particularly narrow. Info on each track and the score can be found at the Line Imprint here.

More on this once I've given it a proper hearing...

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