In the broadest sense, music is a language and has its own vocabulary. Whatever instrument the musician selects, they open up a universe of possibilities. Take a guitar for example, there’s the whole acoustic or electric decision to make alongside a host of further choices to develop the sounds made. There’s an option to use a bottleneck slide or plug into an echo pedal, and endless others. Whatever set up is arrived at, whatever twist and turn the instrument makes, whatever is said with the instrument is coloured by this framework.
Considered in this way, Carl Stone’s music has, for decades, utilised technology and software to manipulate pre-existing sounds. Clearly his work is far more than just a filter or effect, but his working practises apply to any imaginable sound, whether it’s field recordings, symphonies, rock, pop or anything else. The magic of Stone’s work is that he can point his working approach to any slither of sound and there is potential for uniquely cultivated growth.
Of course, this search is no scatter gun approach either, certain sources open up their own possibilities and textures. Earlier works zoned in on Beethoven, Schubert and Mussorgsky amongst cherry picked recordings from all over the world. Slowly, Stone’s focus continues to evolve and grow ever wider, opening up everything from psychedelic rock, funk and afrobeat, towards the dayglow flashings of pop.
Last year’s double headed monster of Baroo and Himalaya proved to be an absolute feast, where this interface with busier rhythmically based source material was staggering. Alongside all-time favourites Shing Kee and L ‘Os à Moelle, out of nowhere these newer tracks – Xe May and the truly epic almost 40-minute sweep of Kikanbou and Fujiken (Final Section) all got swiftly added to our sublime playlist.
Before you’ve even hot-wired his brand new album Stolen Car, into action, it’s clear Stone’s meta-pop sensibility has been fully realised in the form of these latest constructions. 12 newly mangled compositions and only one strays north of 10 minutes whilst almost half are less than 6. And all packaged up in an anagram of Stone’s name, and a Mr Potato Head-like sleeve as a haiku distillation of his entire approach.
Much here has a surface like it’s grown out of that sheen that seeped into our collective mainstream reality – commercial radio, countless television channels, YouTube adverts we quickly skip through and sounds pervading our lives.
If there’s any doubt that Stone’s sonic fractalizing may suffer under more muscular music, this dissolves instantly in the thumping drum patterns of Pasjoli. Stuttering layers and clipped vocal swatches get thrown around the stereo image whilst a jpegged artifact describes an obliterated African form.
Huanchaco spends almost 6 minutes pulling itself apart as it attempts to organise itself into a string of twisting morse code. Auburn punches holes through a scrambled vocal before slowly duelling with a tumble dryer guitar wall. The smooth pop surfaces, slide around in the reflective diamond of Au Jus.
There’s a hint of Bollywood or Asian cinema in the splinters of Hinatei and an Irish jig turned-on-it’s-head on The Jugged Hare. Rinka orbits arounds spinning brass and choir blasts whilst Bojuk flicks through layers of a radio hit where every pixel has been reshuffled.
These first 8 tracks all whizz along at a breath-taking pace, carrying you along a surface where the spaces and fractures feel as active as the music. However, the final 4 open up in a way that feels like these previous tracks were leading down a corkscrewed driveway towards your twisted destination.
Ganci immediately has a slower lopsided quality that traces a pleasant half awoken state. Expanding out to almost 8 minutes, we incrementally get re-ordered into different pockets of spectral vocal vapour trails. Figli reshuffles the same material into a much more hectic dodecahedron mess as the trumpets eventually find a way out…
Xiomara rumbles itself awake with submerged elements, endlessly surfacing. Guitar lines scribble and wobble around a ducking and diving drum. However, as has often been the case, the mental accumulation of his music eventually leads to somewhere that pleasantly deep fries the brain. Saaris at a shade under 11 minutes long is the pure joy of planetary alignment. Slowly curving and clipping in thick arcs, its beautiful psychedelic form regenerating itself inside out endlessly.
After the slow intensification and dissolve of Saaris, the overall pan through Stolen Car feels like a huge chaotic trajectory. As always, with each new release, Stone breaks new ground and shines his musical search light deeply into new voids.
This album, like everything he’s ever done, seemingly defies normal appraisal. Some tracks delight in just being baffling, some love tying themselves in knots and some, with the odds seemingly being stacked against them, are absolutely beautiful. Despite the chaos Stone thrives in, Stolen Car is another brimming planet full of sounds that glue together a form of the impossible.
Stolen Car is out 25 September digitally and also as a x2 vinyl set, released in early 2021 on Unseen Worlds.