CD Review

Negative Charge - "Negative Charge"

By Marcus Pan

Negative ChargeOut of Maryland come the eccentric gentlemen of Negative Charge. Originally known as Chemical Imbalance as far back as '95, NC produce a nerve-racking sound of samples and rhythms. Attempting to lead everyone on a "micro/macrocosmic exploration within the dimensions of sound," Tarris Fronzoli and Ryan Stinnett have produced a number of releases including Instinctive Desire, Mindgraft 0.2, Mindgraft 2.0 and Positive Energy. Under the name Static they've also put out Underneath the Dirt, Wind of Weekow, Cosmic Irony and Psychalucigenetic. In 1998 NC began to perform some live gigs in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area and have just recently produced their latest effort, a five-track EP that is self-titled and independently released.

The style of NC is, as I said, very eccentric. They tread the noisier steps somewhere between Atari Teenage Riot, Orb and the infamous Art of Noise with frequency driven sampling and rhythmic pulses. Vocals are nonexistent, although spoken samples occur fairly often. They tend toward a late-80's arcade sound - the blips and bleeps of the coin-eating cabinets beckoning within their music and forcing me to reminisce my days inside the fortresses of Zaxxon or the mazes of the evil Wizard of Wor. These video-driven samples are pushed out at varying frequencies and pitch, the way Art of Noise did with their real-world sounds.

Rhythm is a pre-requisite and binding force for the music of Negative Charge - and any noise/ambient band for that matter. Without the rhythm and the beat to which the samples can be applied the aural contraption you're trying to build becomes just re-frequencied noise. We have plenty of that already - open your window. Negative Charge does this fairly well, and will occasionally add synthesized melodies to their soundscapes as well to provide a better "musical feel" than what would be there without the melodies. Admittedly sometimes they take it too far and lose that necessary rhythm, but for the most part Negative Charge remains driven by pulsing beat tracks that provide the glue to which they apply their sampled house of cards.

Let me take a moment to tell you what I hear in their work. Many moons ago, over a decade actually, there was a young man who at this time of his life dabbled in the artistic and aesthetic values of mind-altering and mood-enhancing chemicals. On this day he had partaken of a couple tabs of one particular paper-stored chemical that him and his friends commonly referred to as "Uncle Sid." As Uncle Sid began to go to work on his cerebral matter, he decided to visit an arcade in good ol' downtown Elizabeth, NJ, called West End. And this is how I once heard the music of Negative Charge nearly a decade before Tarris and Ryan first said hello to each other in Math class. That's what Negative Charge reminds me of - an acid trip in a late 80s arcade.

Some of NC's tracks on their nominal release hold heavy to the rhythm that pulses throughout the song. The first two tracks, Interface and Mindremix, have distinct percussive tracks. Definitive rhythms that, if you are so inclined, you can even dance to. Interface is one of the better tracks here, with many video game samples that I could just almost place in their rightful games - tonight I'll be firing up M.A.M.E.* to see if I can find them. Mindremix has just as strong of a percussive rhythm, but the samples here aren't as video-centric and there is even a shadowy synthesizer melody lurking in the back of the track. Frequency play is heavy in this one and the blips and bleeps are there, but more computeresque than video-gamish. (Alright, I think I've made up quite enough words and phrases for this review.)

Following this is Komatose, a track that doesn't cling as heavy to the rhythm and has a huge amount of frequency play throughout than the others. There are stronger key melodies here and the rhythm is there, but much more eccentric. Sometimes it fades away then comes back, sometimes it spurts out dozens of individual pulsing beats within a bar, but it's very hard to follow due in part to the synthetic noisiness of the track - Komatose is windy. You'll know what I mean if you listen to it…that word just seems to fit for some reason. The music gets more eccentric as the further tracks come in. The last, Drag, has Chipmunk sounding samples (I used to watch that cartoon - no, really I did.) that contain hard-to-understand quotes.

In summary, Negative Charge are an interesting duo. Their music is trance-like and filled to brimming with old-skool game sounds and arcade samples. The rhythm is strong enough to hold the samples together in a precarious yet followable manner to keep it from becoming pure noise (and you all know how I feel about pure noise - open your window if you want to listen to noise) and allow it to remain musically stable. It's not something I'm going to listen to all the time - but I will listen to it. When I'm alone and I'm blasting rows of alien craft…when I'm eating dots or even when I'm stopping falling missiles with nuclear blasts - that's when I'll listen to it. It's my late-80s arcade acid trip packaged in swirly colors and with a better rhythm.

P.S. Thanks to Kim Kraft for the help with this review.
*Multi Arcade Machine Emulator
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