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Marks with Impermanent Meanings Skye Butchard , January 17th, 2024 09:08

London composer and experimental artist Eamon Foreman has fun with emphasising the artificial on Marks with Impermanent Meanings

As music software became increasingly accessible and powerful over the past fifteen years, so too did the software plug-ins that could emulate organic instruments. Now, producers can casually pop realistic harps, pianos and flutes into their tracks and fool trained ears into thinking they're hearing an expensive studio session with a flautist. Some of these tools are even free – or they might as well be if you know where to look.

But rather than an influx of records with hyperreal orchestral midi on them, the experimental and electronic underground is increasingly enamoured with emphasising artifice. Recent records by ML Buch, Chuquimamani-Condori and Katie Dey impress because of their brash midi aesthetic, not despite it.

London jazz and experimental musician, artist and band leader Lasus has fun with emphasising the artificial on Marks with Impermanent Meanings, a record that blends the organic with the impossible. The nimble piano embellishments on opener ‘ooowooo’ could be real if not for their jagged decay and weightlessness. The same is true for the picked cello part on ‘Fragments’ which pops and clangs convincingly, but stops in uncanny jolts. Lasus is likely using freely available VSTs such as Spitfire’s LABS, but he mines personality and oddness out of these tools. You begin to wonder where the live starts and the digital begins.

Lasus makes music that sits at the intersection of modern jazz, electronic and a smattering of other sounds that could broadly be described as ‘computer music’. His tracks are explorative and spritely, with an emphasis on memorable melody lines and multi-part shifts. Xylophone, bells, sub-bass and muted trumpets colour the mix. The songs are often welcoming and gentle, despite their busyness.

‘Renndo’ is led by Lasus’s main instrument, the guitar, and floats between melancholic and wondrous in its ascending melody line. ‘Fert’ cycles back to an increasingly unwieldy synth line that’s allowed to lose control after a jumble of satisfying jamming and programming.

Compared to some voices within UK electronic music, Lasus’s sound selections can feel indistinct. Given he’s working with well-known presets at times, they work best when the weirdness is pushed. Rather than evoking a mood or time period through rudimentary sounds, in the way Holly Waxwing can sound pastoral and alien, or Proc Fiskal can sound like a hi-fi reimagining of 16-bit games, this record occasionally becomes faceless. This is felt most within the stiff drum sounds on tracks like ‘Swem’ and ‘Treeves’, which aren’t as polished as the interesting song ideas.

One thing those realistic VSTs haven’t figured out is how to replicate the ineffable feeling of the air in a room where a sound was recorded. Great producers do magic by creating that room in our imagination. Often on Marks with Impermanent Meanings , Lasus pulls off that trick, but it can be difficult to visualise the space at times.