The Infant Cycle
CD (ltd. 300)
"Drop-out Center" is the anniversary album of The Infant Cycle project celebrating 20 years of the personal creative journey of the Canadian musician Jim DeJong which began in November 1992 after leaving the band Mind Skelp-cher. During this time Jim has recorded and released a massive amount of material both on his own label The Ceiling and on other respectable underground labels such as EE Tapes, Drone Records, Afe Records, etc. and this is his second full-length album on CD after "The Sand Rays" (Diophantine Discs, 2009).
The album includes nine abstract compositions recorded with Jim's trademark approach. Using such sound sources as shortwave radio, vinyl surface, videotape, bird cage and also more "normal" instruments (bass guitar, electric mandolin, Korg Poly-800 synthesizer) he creates slowly drifting multilayered textures with sometimes unexpected stops and narration twists. Sharp crispy foreground sound is set off by gentle background waves of resonating feedbacks forming intelligent electroacoustic glitch / drone with scratchy tangibility, meditativeness and even a sort of romanticism. This is music that evokes imagination and easily paints images in the listener's mind... "Turn on!"
Jim DeJong from Canada celebrates twenty years of activities as The Infant Cycle, during which he released a whole bunch of CDRs, net releases, a bit of vinyl and one 'real' CD on Diohantine Discs (see Vital Weekly 695), and now his second on Russia's Zhelezobeton, a home which sheltered also some previous releases by DeJong. All the pieces here are from April 2011 and further explore the sound world we know from DeJong over the past years. The cover explains the nature of sound sources, which makes a great read. On one side we have 'vinyl playout groove', 'video record', bird cage and shortwave, while on the other hand we have an electric guitar, electric mandolin, bass, poly 800 but also field recordings. Plenty to choose from, and he does put his options to good use. The varied options for sound creation lead to a varied sound, but with one constant factor: atmospherics play an important role in all of these pieces. He layers a whole bunch of sounds together and then carefully mixes these. But it not necessarily leads to mere drone music. In 'Shiny Venus Part 2' for instance he loops the strumming of a bass-guitar a few times and then other sounds (mandolin, bird cage, field recordings) drop in and out of the mix. When he uses the 'playout' grooves (which are those grooves at the end of a piece of vinyl), it becomes more rhythmical obviously but spiced up with electronics and sometimes remain short, these pieces act more like interludes, except for 'Pipe', which is considerable longer. These moody tunes are indeed much more than just drone pieces. It's the sheer variation, the exploration of sounds to create these atmospheric tunes that make this perhaps the most mature record I heard from The Infant Cycle so far. Excellent stuff indeed.
Celebrating 20 years of musicianship, Canadian producer Jim DeJong has had this limited abstract release produced on quality Russian label Zhelezobeton. The Infant Cycle are not going to appeal to everyone out there, indeed there are elements of this projects output that can make me grit my teeth.
The self-titled intro is a short affair of stabbing industrial that is all too brief for me, before drifting into the lengthy stuck-groove vinyl sounding repetition of ‘Pipe’, which does eventually generate interest as rising machine hum ambience is introduced in later stages.
D-OC is one of those affairs I can love and hate with equal measure. There are moments of genuine obscure pleasure, such as the audio damaged ‘Pool Skin’, with its wonderful skipping drones that are an effective mash of sounds mirroring IDM without the beats.
Along the way there are varying degrees of Dark Ambient which work well because of their cohesive structures, but quite often there are skittish interruptions along the way that borderline on madness, but without the car crash ghoulishness that makes us sit up and take notice. Removal of such disastrous messes such as ‘Acid Chicken’, and other washes of ridiculous noise (for the sake of it, it seems) just damage the obvious talent and qualities DeJong evidently possesses.
A new release from The Infant Cycle finds its way into my arms, and what a pleasure it Is to receive it! In this album you can find nine tracks, all obscure in their curious construction and satisfying in their execution. The building blocks for these nine gates of the Drop-out center are varying to the extreme. You can find electric mandolins, Poly-808, bird cages, field recordings and many more common instruments in the list that specifies what was used on each of the tracks. Why is this important? Because the complete creation of Drop-out center sends a unified and holistic feeling with each of the tracks, and sometimes I even fail to understand where the specified instruments are. I believe this is a great advantage in this case, and the result reminds me of a wonderful self titled album by Azure Skies. The two albums probably share very different set of instruments that created them, but they both are fantastic in how they are solid enough and complete enough to allow themselves to be detached and alienated almost until they are unbearable, and only then the artists decide to touch the listeners and create a catharsis.
I like ‘Pool Skin’, in which thin epidermises of soft music similar to the wonderful music you can get from ‘A silver Mt. Zion’ and their friends are drowning in soft pulses of broken sound. It should be distressing to the ear and to the mind, but it is strangely comforting, I know not why. The uncomfortable factor is even magnified on ‘Fall asleep in the car’, where there seem to be a squeaking door echoing all over the ghostly track, as if to anchor the ethereal mandolin to the blurry ground. Wherever it is that we hit the ground as listeners to this album, I am completely satisfied and content. Check this album out.
The Infant Cycle is celebrating its 20th anniversary with this new full length album. Hailing from Canada Jim DeJong can look back on an impressive discography which led him to very different labels and collaborations with different artists (and I here remember a project like Orphx to name a famous one).
The Infant Cycle can be defined as pure experimentalism. DeJong likes to work with field recordings and manipulated sounds. It’s hard to catch the artist’s sound and therefore even more difficult to define his music. But is it really all about music? “Drop-Out Center” sounds more like the work of a scientist rather than a musician. He’s nothing less than a sound collector and noise creator. It brings the listener to visit the mysterious atmospheres created by The Infant Cycle, which often are mixed with industrial soundscapes, dark-ambient passages and pure experimentalism. The result of this research and concept sounds pretty abstract and a sound that remains hard to grasp.
The mish mash of sounds might give you the impression of pure improvisation –which is probably true for a while; nevertheless some of the compositions are quite elaborated. The multiple sound manipulations and use of real instruments finally result in a few captivating tracks.
Conclusion: Experimental music always has a kind of surreal dimension, which is perfectly handled by The Infant Cycle. This is a sound for extreme music lovers, which might ask you the question if “Drop-Out Center” is really dealing with music?
Infant Cycle’s “20th anniversary album” is quite dissonant, sound-wise thin experimental music. It is very hard to categorize, as it is mixed with noise elements, minimalist aptop-noise like (quite boring) drones (the nearly 11-minute Pipe...), squealing ambient and - surprisingly - also modified strings. Basically, Drop-out Center is a mixture of styles that seems more like Jim DeJong’s private self-expression than anything meant to also touch its listeners. It is very, very distant and therefore, while containing some interesting elements, also easy to forget.
Harshly put: Infant Cycle has a long time ago shown that it can make material far more impressive than this. I find this celebratory album to be just a mediocre work between better times.
The most recent release from Hamilton, Ontario’s The Infant Cycle makes a strong argument for the position that not only can all sounds be made musical, they can be made musically beautiful. Now that each and every sound one encounters can be captured, shared, transformed, repurposed and decontextualized in an easy, portable and affordable manner, the aesthetic focus ought to return to composition rather than means of appropriation. This is the appeal of The Infant Cycle’s music. Jim DeJong has spent the past twenty years working, as The Infant Cycle, to move beyond the idea of weird sounds qua weird sounds and to turn the listener’s attention to the craft and the structure of each piece as music, which just so happens to have been created by using some non-traditional sound sources.
Such careful thought and preparation seems to be given to each and every sound on Drop-out Center. Every shape examined and every tone showing its well-defined, primary quality. There is either detailed planning or a preternatural sense of space behind the utilization of each sound element. Where to place that element? What to pair it with (if anything)? Each of these unique sound ingredients is allowed to live out its own moment within the composition. To further avoid listening to these nine tracks as mere practices in musique concrète, DeJong wisely lists the instrumentation used on each track so that we can listen to the music instead of playing “what made that noise”. That’s right… the recipes are right there inside the cover!
The run-out grooves of vinyl records cycle lopsidedly to create rhythmic foundations. Bird cages are slowly bowed in glassy reverberations or struck as metallic marimbas. An electric mandolin is layered and chopped or crushed into little glitch-collages and pulses of electric haze. The recipe is actually quite simple. A few field recordings thrown in, the occasional bass guitar and a bit of synthesizer on the first and last songs. It’s the way that he subtly assembles these elements that really reveals his artistic dedication to detail. None of these tracks are overcrowded. None are too sparse either. The sounds on “Shiny Venus Part 2? are perhaps given too much time to unfold. That one piece runs for fifteen minutes. This is not a problem in itself, but the rest of the disc flows so smoothly from one texture to another that this piece certainly dwells in comparison. Otherwise, scenes shift from the martial to the empyreal, from the damned to the dreamy. Some of the tracks feel like the greatest introduction sections for songs that will never actually kick in. Images of blurred streets at night or of dark seas and wet, creaky ropes express a love for the subtle beauty and symmetry of life in the over-crowded global village.
More than anything, this album is strikingly elevated. We are ourselves strange little pieces of this over-crowded world, trying to fit into just the right place where we can breathe and feel as though we are right where we belong. If individual sounds can be organized in such a way as to seem like they are in exactly the right spot, perhaps individual people can find their way there too.