- A few years ago, Robert Henke asked Rashad Becker about the mastering process that's made him (and Dubplates & Mastering) so well-known and respected. In that interview, Becker talked about "mapping the sound to my body, and to my ears" and dealing with the sound in terms of how it "addresses my body." This focus on the physical presence of sound is a defining facet of Becker's debut album, Traditional Music Of Notional Species Vol. I. With practically no reliance on traditional cornerstones, such as rhythm, harmony or melody, all that's left to do is engage with the sound on the terms set by its own immediate impact.
On the album's opening side, it feels like we're in jazz country, albeit an unexplored part of the map. Rabih Beaini's Albidaya LP from earlier this year tread upon similar ground, but where Beaini let everything hang out in a rush of improvisation, Becker strips things back to carefully composed floods of colour. His lead tones often sound akin to Albert Ayler's saxophone, a buzzing shard of brass piercing the air. This is especially true on "Chants II," a chaotic but controlled ball of energy fighting against itself for the entirety of its short life.
The latter half of the record is more restrained and somewhat melancholy. From dense clouds of noise to near-ambient passages, there remains a consistent Becker timbre, a sequence of personal dream logic. Each sound is clear, full-bodied and perfectly placed within the mix. There is no waste. This is also true of the album in its entirety, which flies through eight tracks in just over half an hour. Each one is long enough to have a developed narrative, but short enough to blend with the whole.
It's interesting that this album comes at a time when PAN's output has been more focused on outsider club sounds— following releases from Black Sites, Lee Gamble, Heatsick and NHK'Koyxen among others, Becker's LP serves as a timely reminder of the label's experimental roots. Traditional Music Of Notional Species Vol. 1 is designed to dominate your attention; full of heart, incredibly detailed and impossible to pin down. It's almost hard to believe this is his first album.
01. Dances I
02. Dances II
03. Dances III
04. Dances IV
05. Themes I
06. Themes II
07. Themes III
08. Themes IV