The Infant Cycle - Playout

The Infant Cycle

CD-R (ltd. 250)

1. How to Bow a Tone Arm [mp3]
2. Skinning the Platter [mp3]

total length: 30:15
release date: March 29, 2007
price: €7


The Infant Cycle is a project of the Canadian artist Jim DeJong working under this name since 1992. It may seem surprising, but all these 15 years he remained in the underground of experimental music, and his name is well-known only to inveterate enthusiasts and explorers of this strange phenomenon. The project has put out 6 full-length albums on cassettes and CD-Rs, several singles and an amazing series of minions called "Clear Shape" released in ultra-limited editions on transparent vinyls of unusual forms (square, hexagon and triangle). Jim has also recorded a lot of collaboration works with such musicians as Big City Orchestra, Dronaement, Orphx, Aidan Baker, Delphium, etc., some of them were published by his own label The Ceiling.

The Infant Cycle's music has never been notable for tensity or ornateness, instead of this it focuses on the subtle aspects of sounding of separate timbres and their combinations. Such textural orientation allows to create a completely peculiar effect, and the seeming minimalism carries into the contemplation of the infinity of possible microsound combinations. In this connection, Jim knows how to get on with both rhythms and drone ambient prostration. Among his favourite instruments are Poly-800, shortwaves, feedback, field recordings and altered vinyl records.

Vinyls deserve special mentioning. Jim carved the runout grooves of records and thus created simple and unembellished (yet in some ways, unpredictable) rhythm patterns. Once he decided to start a project severely limiting the sound sources to one carved playout and the operational sounds of his old 4-speed Califone record player. Additional noises were generated by running a razor blade along the platter while it was spinning (the blade at different altitudes, and the platter at different speeds which was picked up by the needle), and the tone arm being vibrated into different tones by a violin bow (amplified via the needle).

An early track (called, fittingly "Playout (Early)") appeared on "Lágrimas De Miedo N°8 - Sund", a compilation CD coming with the eighth issue of France's "Fear Drop" magazine (2001). Two excerpts were also released as a free promotional 5" by The Ceiling to announce the then-upcoming CD release of "Playout" on the American label Merchants Of Sound. But the label soon folded out, and the recording was lying and lying in the bins of The Infant Cycle's archive. And now we are infinitely glad to have an opportunity to present this work to your attention!


The Infant Cycle is het pseudoniem waaronder de Canadees Jim DeJong al sinds 1994 werkt. Hij houdt zich vooral bezig met minimalistische ambient noise. Dit nieuwste album Playout is eigenlijk al een oud werkje van hem, waarvan een eerdere versie al eens is uitgebracht op een compilatie van een Canadees blad. Nu dus ook op CDR uit bij het Russische label Zhelezobeton.

Op het plaatje horen we hoe The Infant Cycle zich bezig houdt met een platenspeler en een zelf uitgesneden groef in een stuk vinyl. De platenspeler wordt bewerkt met een vioolstok en een scheermesje, daarnaast worden ook alle vier de standen (snelheid) van de platenspeler benut.

Het werkje is opgedeeld in twee delen waarbij deel een de bewerking met de vioolstok is. Dit is een werkje dat een nogal pregnant achtergrondgeluid heeft, achtergrondgeluid dat zich zo af en toe als een drone naar voren werkt en waarbij je zo af en toe naar je stereo wil rennen omdat de versterker wel echt kapot aan het gaan moet zijn. Maar aannemende dat het niet aan mijn versterker ligt en dit bedoeld is, kan ik niet zeggen dat het werkje echt blijft boeien, na zo'n minuut of 7 heb ik het allemaal wel gehoord. Het wordt mij dan allemaal net iets te minimalistisch.

Daar waar het tweede deel met het scheermesje minstens zo minimalistisch is weet het me toch meer te boeien. Dit is een werkje dat laat horen waarom Jim DeJong al de kans heeft gekregen om met vele grootheden samen te werken (zoals Aidan Baker, Orphx, Big City Orchestra), een nummer dat goed in elkaar steekt en de luisteraar weet vast te houden.

Toch ook met deze afsluiter van het schijfje is het niet zo dat ik verlang naar meer. Na een half uur is het ook echt wel genoeg geweest. Het is leuk om te horen hoe The Infant Cycle in 2003 bezig was en het is een werkje dat ook echt waarde heeft, maar niet een die ik nog erg vaak terug zal luisteren.

Jim DeJong's The Infant Cycle has been around for a good thirteen years already and he released a whole bunch of material on various media. This new release is not exactly new, since it was recorded in 2003 already an it's a kinda of conceptual release. The cover says for sound sources 'one carved-vinyl record groove, record player operational sounds (augmented by violin bow and razor blade)', which left me thinking what to see. It's now released here on this Russian label and it's quite a minimal piece of music, actually two pieces. Records are spun at various speeds and the razor blades are held at different positions - well, or some such, me thinks. 'How To Bow A Tone Arm' is a minimal, industrialized piece of music of continuos drones, which is nice but not great. 'Skinning The Platter' is more interesting, starting out with a sort of beat, and far away drones, which slowly seem to disappear, instead of increasing. It's a much more careful piece of music, with a strange development, but one that holds the attention throughout, not knowing what to expect next. A great piece going on here.

Jim DeJong's project The Infant Cycle has been active on the underground experimental scene since 1994 and particularly on the cassette scene of the early to mid 90's. Experimental in every sense of the word, DeJong uses simple sound sources to create pulses and noises of various types to use as the basis for his compositions. "Playout" is no exception; the sound sources used for this recording are a carved vinyl record groove and the operating sounds of a record player (augmented by violin bow on the tone arm and a razor blade on the platter).

"Playout" follows a lengthy series of mostly cassette and some CDR releases along with a series of clear shaped vinyl singles on mainly Canadian and European labels. Comprising of just two tracks - "How to Bow a Tone Arm" and "Skinning the Platter" - DeJong's latest album takes essentially quite basic sounds and reconstructs them into a 30 minute experiment in aural manipulation.

The first of the two tracks, "How to Bow a Tone Arm", is a low grinding track augmented with the amplified crackles and scrapes the tone arm collects. The mood is generally energetic, anxious or edgy, almost desperate at times. Sounds come in and out of the mix, either loud droning grinds or gentler more atmospheric tonal sounds generated from the bow on the tone arm. "Skinning the Platter" is slightly more rhythmic with an occasional bassy echoed beat over swooping atmospherics giving way to rounded almost tribal clunks and screeching high-pitched tones. The second track is the most minimal of the pair, concentrating more on the detail of the sound and mood it creates. The resultant experience is desolate, windswept and harrowing in presentation, creating an atmosphere of an uninhabited industrial landscape and the weird unidentified sounds it creates from the darkness.

DeJong, similar to the great and respected Aube, uses the simplest of sound sources to base "Playout" on and, by combining harsher and gentler tones from the limited sources at his disposal, creates two tracks of differing mood and presence. Both have their merits and contrasting styles but both are equally intriguing and present DeJong as an artist with a refined and well-versed ability to manipulate and reconstruct source sounds into something completely new and interesting.

Paul Lloyd, Connexion Bizarre.

It might seem that pretty much every thing one needs to know about The Infant Cycle's Playout can be found in the sources listed on its sleeve: “one carved vinyl record groove, record player [an old 4-speed Califone record player, to be exact] operational sounds (augmented by violin bow and razor blade).” But merely listing the sources conveys little about what the half-hour EP, appropriately sliced in half by its two pieces, “How to Bow a Tone Arm” and “Skinning the Platter,” sounds like. Playout's the brainchild of Canadian artist Jim DeJong who has worked under The Infant Cycle name since 1994 and manages his own label The Ceiling. In “How to Bow a Tone Arm,” a skipping rhythm of pops—a gallop almost—generated from a carved run-out groove provides a hypnotic foundation for grinding drone tones that stretch out over top until an abrupt derailment briefly occurs nine minutes in, after which the rhythm dusts itself off and carries on, now overlaid by distant industrial noises and faint whistles. To produce his sounds, DeJong ran a razor blade along the platter while it was spinning, and used a violin bow on the tone arm to manufacture different tones (amplified via the needle). “Skinning the Platter” changes character throughout: it's variously a pitter-pattering microsound exploration, NASA recording of alien transmissions, and, finally, an exercise in entropy. The DVD component of a kindred work, Otomo Yoshihide's Multiple Otomo, argues so strongly in favour of Yoshihide's approach, one wishes Playout had been granted the same, admittedly deluxe treatment. Certainly it would be engrossing to witness the EP material's sounds being generated in addition to hearing them.

Jim De Jong - deus ex machina of The Infant Cycle - is one of those musicians who apply intelligence to those species of sound that otherwise would appear as normal, even predictable, thus transforming a few elements into a stimulating listening experience. Then again he releases short records, which is also a smart move considering how easy it is to remain entangled in boredom’s tentacles when dealing with repetitive structures. The Infant Cycle’s products mostly belong to turntablism; the only sources used by De Jong in “Playout” are a carved vinyl record groove and the “operational sounds” of a record player, enhanced by a violin bow and a razor blade). I’d also say that there are effects in there, but I won’t bet my house on it. The 30 minutes are divided exactly - 15 minutes per track - and both pieces are intriguing. “How to bow a tone arm” uses the noise of the carved groove as a cyclic rhythm upon which lunar frequencies and nocturnal atmospheres launch the music into an unsettling growth of regular insanity that mixes Esplendor Geometrico and early Zoviet France, while “Skinning the platter” is a little scarcer at the beginning - the turntable’s noise clicking like a water drop - then augments its speed until we arrive at the borders between non-harmonic electronica and sheer noise, but always with large doses of calmness and, should I say, class. At whisper volume, the sounds heard starting around the ninth minute can recall distant frogs in the silence of the night, but we soon go back to square one. Very, very nice.

Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes.

The enigmatic experimental artist Jim Dejong arrives with a release of high improved movements of sounds and perspectives created by minimal drone reverberations accomplished by ambient noise elements which in one or another way creates a perfect structure, full of industrial drone patterns increasing its power through the whole minutes. The 2nd track “skinning The Platter” is really a very in deep composition floating through ambient passages and minimal drone elements transforming in rhythmic pulsations molding the whole structure of the track into a concrete machine of noises but arranged in definite forms which seems to collapse to each moment, and suddenly turns so dense ambient platform with a dark atmosphere.

Kerval 210, PAN-0-RA-MA.

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