Album Reviews

Ethernet: Opus2 (Kranky) – Album Review

Ethernet Opus 2

To Paraphrase a wise music teacher “Music is silence, punctuated by sounds. Deciding which sounds to use and when is role of the composer; making sense of them is the role of the listener.” (If it helps, try to picture a diminutive grey haired sage punching the air with her fist on ‘punctuated’). This came to mind listening to “Opus 2” as other than between tracks, there are no moments of silence in this deceptively gentle and intriguing new work by Portland, Oregon resident Tim Gray (aka Ethernet).

“Monarch” opens with a bright arpeggio but this is drowned within seconds in a buzz of ebbing electronics. It is a few minutes before a low key bass begins to bump along; a high register melody comes later still.

Second track “Correction” picks up with a similar pulse, the beat is now syncopated, underlying slow tonal chord progressions. Electronic chimes occasionally punch trough. “Cubed Suns” opens with a wall of vibrating chords; we could be watching an 80’s Michael Mann movie at its most moody here.

Later in “Dodecahedron” high cymbals tap along but fade over loops of eight giving an illusion of space. Warmer harmonies emerge around halfway through – ‘horns’ mark clear repeated phrases this is as close as we get to a melody. Yet any great crescendo is held back and the piece concludes with the persistent cymbal echoing softly.

Closing piece “Pleorma” begins with a mechanical hum, making room for a crunching rhythmic pattern. We hear occasional soft feedback loops fading in and out, there are no sudden moves. Very slow arpeggios trace out a melody, which fights for our attention.

A lot of this feels quite introspective, as the component parts of each piece seem to co-habit without interacting. Listening with the knowledge that:

“The bulk of recording took place during the darkest months of winter in the Pacific Northwest, between late-night shifts providing technical support for hospital operating rooms.” – Ethernet 

…maybe sheds light into some possible influences. The same source tells us Gray uses “trancework (or self-hypnosis)” when composing. Perhaps these works are an expression of this state or inspired by it. Futurist Luigi Russolo writing in 1913 said: “musical evolution is paralleled by the multiplication of machines, which collaborate with man on every front. Not only in the roaring atmosphere of major cities, but in the country too, which until yesterday was totally silent”.

He was calling for a new musical vocabulary and many 20th century composers made much of using what they hear every day in their work.

Much of Opus 2 evokes the accidental music made by machines going about their business, (the hums and beeps of that operating room?) but the nice thing is you can spot many cues; from movie soundtracks, (fans of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and Brian Eno might feel on familiar ground at times), or the rhythms found in nature, like a heartbeat or the sounds of the forest.

Review by CD

Artist page on Label site

Ethernet site

Buy it here

Quoted works

“The Art of Noises” Luigi Russolo

Click to access Russolo%20Art%20of%20Noises.pdf

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