This very site was an idea that came in part from a daydream about my least favourite Beatles track ever – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. My idea was based on the stylus slipping and creating a wormhole back to my very favourite period in the visual arts – oblaDADA. The error being the basis for something new and unexpected. The end of Love’s The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This and the second half meltdown in Kevin Ayers Rheinhart And Geraldine/Colores Para Dolores also play with the notion of skipping malfunctions like a sonic wall being breached but a connection into a stranger but still functioning space.
Whilst these examples and many others exploit a form of error, and the much more recent idolisation of the glitch in electronica, Carl Stone’s work feels like it’s far more than just a casual derailing of sound. There are two major elements in his growing discography. The first is the sonic material itself. A sample of anything Stone chooses. It may be a field recording, it may be a piece of Korean classical music, Euro pop or afrobeat, in fact any file that contains sound is, it seems, a possibility. The second component is the way the sample is handled via software that generates endless kaleidoscopic refractions…
Stone also loves food, almost all of his pieces are named after restaurants where he’s sought out their most adventurous creations. We discussed the clear analogy between the sounds and food in last year’s interview –
“You’re combining elements, mixing, pureeing, ricing, dicing, slicing, sautéing, sous-viding, pickling… I haven’t specifically thought of it in those terms but now that you mention it, it is like cooking. Taking ingredients from the cupboard, from the shelf, from the refrigerator, from the garden and you are applying different techniques. In the end you end up with something that is hopefully both nutritious and delicious.”
Given his prominence, it’s surprising the last time Stone released new music back in 2007 with Al-Noor. Since then Stones music has enjoyed a well-deserved spotlighting. Piqued by two essential retrospective collections of key works spanning the 70s and 80s and another surveying the 80s and 90s. It’s also fair to say his work like Shing Kee, L ‘Os a Moelle and Bantreay Srey are all very prominent in an all-time list here at OBLADADA. Seeing him live in Scotland last Summer and spending time interviewing him has only made me appreciate his music and approach even more.
Al-Noor sits apart in Stone’s discography for me as he zones in on samples and materials that grew in part, out of western pop and rock music. That survey included a chewed-up Barbie Girl by Aqua in Flint’s, the third eye trip of L ‘Os a Moelle a meditation on The Byrds Stranger In A Strange Land and even Britney Spears in a wormhole in the bonus track – Dino around Oops…I Did It Again.
So, the relationship with his music is loaded with questions and one that floats to the top is a slightly predictable game of guess the sample. But in a way, Stones work seems to look at sounds in a very open eared way. Whilst sound sources are field recordings or samples of pre-existing music the treatment always seems to obliterate or build over the source. The sample is always reduced to sonic building blocks, each part still a loaded representative package within the whole – a hyper realism.
So, after years of touring, new music by Stone is a real event. During the live performance I was lucky to catch, he previewed two new works both of which were stunning (I’m guessing the other track will feature in the next disc to be released this September, as mentioned in the press relating to this one). Described by myself at the time as – ‘afrobeat through a kaleidoscope’ – Sun Dong Dan features here. 11 minutes of bouncing and bobbling along in a heat stroked delirium.
A propulsive strain of Latin funk forms the jittering groove of the title track Baroo. The rhythmic element of Baroo maintains the spline of the piece but reshuffles the order before Stone gets the cheese grater out and creates dizzying shards of sound. The track lasting almost seven minutes, zips along at a scorching pace but never loses sight of an impossible precision.
The opener Okajouki slips around the speakers with far eastern sounding plucked strings, background thuds and a time bending vocal presence. A spiked celebration at the tea house.
Xe May is, according to the notes, the only track played on an Electron Octatrack and the feel is slightly different to the others. A looping double bass accompanied by a droning twisting chemtrail. A devotional female voice then morphs into a pixelated choir. This feels like a new space in his work as the ambient groove spirals outwards.
The closer, Panchita has a weird plastic feeling like a fly-through a lightweight pop tune. After the exoticism of the previous 5 tracks, this feels like being delivered back into a neon lit shopping mall somewhere on the edge of normal.
As a whole, Baroo feels like a development of Stone’s work whilst still retaining the signifiers of his earlier triumphs. It’s a surprisingly concise disc at a shade under 39 minutes in a catalogue that’s often in the past, seen single tracks easily fill whole slabs of vinyl. The majority of these new tracks zone in more on textures that pull you deep into the sound. The space here is saturated, fast paced and littered with sharp edges where you become sensitised to the tiniest variations in the mosaic. Ultimately, Baroo is a highly concentrated dose of time travel – a day of music hugely compressed into one nutritious and delicious capsule.