To be fair, this one's not that obscure, as it has a bunch of views on Youtube and reviews on RYM. However, it's certainly more obscure than Autechre or Bright Eyes, and I doubt any neocities users besides sbbu are familiar with it, so fair game, I say!
Ryoji Ikeda is the second japanese producer we've reviewed here, and this album of his is infamous for its abraisiveness. Many of the electronic sounds used are at such high frequencies, they have potential to effect peoples' hearing or annoy dogs. This is the biggest 'turn-off' for most casual listeners, but those willing to listen past track one will find a nice array of minimalist soundscapes. However, it does take a bit to kick into high gear.
This leads us to turn-off numero dos: the first eight (of 20) tracks, which make up the first 10 minutes. While all of these short tracks last just over half a minute at most, they're all really similar, pretty much seamlessly transitioning into each other. If you don't expect it beforehand, this first part can seem like a bit of a slog to get through. However, it does function similarly to the exposition portion of the traditional sonata*, in which the themes of the album are introduced, to be explored more later. However, if you find yourself wondering what all the fuss is about two minutes in, there's no shame in skipping ahead a little.
The ball really gets rolling at track nine, data.microhelix, where something close to a traditional electronic song emerges. Interestingly enough, with just several different frequencies Ikeda makes a pretty complex and catchy tune. The minimalistic qualities work in the album's favor to create a sound that is clean but not bland. The album works as a sort of suite, and over each following track, the intensity ramps up a little, with the makeshift melodies becoming more and more complex.
The abraisiveness of the earlier tracks never really diminishes; it sort of rises and falls, with extra-migraine-inducing tracks weaving through tracks with more subdued tones. data.reflex is one of the most fun tracks in the bunch; its use of a more intricate instrument mingles with the clicks and pops well.
Eventually, we come to data.matrix, the most complex track in the album, and also the most popular. All of the most familiar themes explored in the past tracks come together in this climactic soundscape. The fast-paced static lines through the ambience and echoing bleeps creates an satisfying sonic effect.
I've been pretty partial to this album in this review, as I feel it really speaks to me. It's not without faults, of course. Due to the album's format, a lot of tracks kind feel a bit shallow when taken out of context. I don't mind listening to it on headphones, but I make sure to listen on a low volume to avoid the danger of going deaf. Past these faults, however, it's a very fascinating and satisfying collection of electronic compositions. I'm very sure there are many people out there who will dissagree with me, and I wouldn't blame them. This definitely isn't music that will please everyone.
*I've been taking a music history course. You tend to pick up on the terminology.
Highlights: data.reflex, data.vertex, data.matrix
With this album may I reccomend: plain water