Melodies are fine. Notes are great. I have nothing against music, believe me. However, there’s something to be said for an aspect of music that’s much more elemental–namely, sound.
On their exciting 2011 cut “Wasted,” Korean electronic trio Idiotape seem to use music as a vehicle for exploring just how far pure sound can take an audience.
In 2010, lifelong Korean DJ Dguru enlisted the help of synthesizer player Zeze and drummer DR to create the power trio Idiotape. Since then, they’ve bloomed into a globetrotting sensation, gracing stages at the Glastonbury and South By South West festivals.
“Wasted” comes to us from the group’s debut album, “11111101,” which was released in 2011. Some of you tech geeks some can probably see what they did there with the binary numbers.
While the first thing we hear on “Wasted” is a sleek, sequenced bass line, things get messy quick.
A hiss of static-like sound is draped over the introduction, followed by a few gradually ascending keyboard moans. It’s not so much a collection of harmonies, and it sure as hell isn’t melodic. It’s the power of noise and sound being used to create and release tension.
It’s a full minute-and-a-half until we get our first properly “musical” material.
The keyboard chord progression on “Wasted” is so stock-in-trade for this sort of material that the band almost seems to acknowledge that it’s not the star of the show. As if to prove this inclination, a series of jabbing synth accents poke out of the song’s filament, jostling the harmony to the side, urged along by DR’s insistent drumming.
The song features much of what’s common in electronic dance music–smooth and unceasing bass, motorized drumming, the aforementioned thin keyboard progression. But these are clearly not the key elements. The squeaks, whirrs, and beeps that occur throughout the six-plus minutes of “Wasted” are the song’s secret ingredients.
The subtly rising and falling synthesizer sounds, while mixed low, are the main course.
The piece simply could not succeed without either of them, and they encompass all of the song’s most important characteristics. As “Wasted” moves forward, the sonic splatter painting becomes more pronounced, with the rude sounds popping up in new corners of the rhythm, becoming ever-more present.
However, it’s the sliding synths that have the last word. Finally, as if exhausted, the song ends with the two elongated sounds dovetailing into one another, creating microtonal tension that is as rich as it is jarring.
The end result sure sounds like music to my ears.
Listen to the 2011 Idiotape song “Wasted” RIGHT HERE
Jeff Tobias is a composer, writer and multi-instrumentalist currently living in Brooklyn, New York. As of late, he has been researching arcane systems of tuning and working on his jump shot.