This is where I get to sound just like someone else's parents: I'm not a great one for records that dispense wholesale with tunes. It's not big and it's not clever. I'm fine with a horrible bloody noise; you know exactly where you are with Merzbow and like-minded chums going rapidly deaf to the sound of some miscreant joyriding a tank through a pile of scrap metal. I'm equally fine with some of Stockhausen's more resolutely atonal works - again, that sort of music isn't in the business of apologizing for what it is. I say someone else's parents because my mother demands Orbital, Kraftwerk and Chaos Engine CDs as birthday presents.
Anyway. VoizNoiz 2 or Banabila or Urban Soundscapes - it's unclear which is title and which is perpetrator - is a lot like The Zawinul Syndicate circa Immigrants or Black Water, only with all the interesting bits removed. All that's left are a set of comedy bongs and groinks and some moderately pleasing vocal treatments that sound a lot like someone mucking with a vocoder in a music shop on a Saturday afternoon while waiting for their partner to finish buying stuff from the chemist. Come to think of it, great parts of the album sound a good deal like a couple of other people in that same music shop joining in on a sampler loaded with radio sound-effects. There are also occasional flashes of rhythms that sound like they could be interested in going somewhere, but actually when they stop and think about it they'd rather stay in and watch a bit of telly. Which is as annoying in music as it is in people.
The real problem I have with this is it's inoffensive. Pleasant, even. Stripped-pine music for stripped-pine people - a kind of jazz-lite, if you will. All the social cachet of not having a copy of some random Dido CD on your coffee-table, but none of that hard-to-understand malarkey with difficult time-signatures or challenging keys. Thus expressing my frustration is like being annoyed at fluffy kittens - they will remain fluffy kittens that people will coo over and stare at me balefully like I'm some kind of over-principled monster for daring to criticize something so nice.
To thieve wholesale from the great Alexei Sayle: "Biscuits are nice. Rock groups aren't. They're supposed to scare you senseless before dying in a puddle of someone else's vomit."
Anyway, if you want a coffee-table or polite dinner-party soundtrack, this will do you well. Those of you into interesting jazz will probably already own the Zawinul records. For something a little more hypnotically ambient, may I recommend Tom Ellard's various Sevcom Music Server discs? Good.
Post: Tone Casualties, 6353 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, CA, 90028