Simon Little: The Knowledge of Things to Come (2011)
The first wave of auteurs to substantially capitalize on the proliferation of sophisticated yet accessibly-priced music production technology hailed from the DJ and electronic scenes. With turntables, samplers and DAT machines in their arsenals, these solitary explorers discovered, manipulated and mixed sound in innovative ways. The boundary between instrument and tool would never be the same.
The proliferation of multi-track recorders and expensive effects rigs have increased as their price and physical size has shrunk. As a result, artists like Simon Little can create an ever-increasing array of instrumental music, recorded and distributed as an entirely one-person endeavor.
Little's The Knowledge of Things to Come is made up of live improvisations, with a bass played through a real-time looping machine (Looperlative's LP-1), to create figures and drones, over which Little adds soulful solos and ambient textures.
The danger with Little's methodology and approach is that the inherent repetition can induce boredom, with the sameness in the technology's tone usurping the sound of the player. Little largely manages to avoid that here, mainly through a smart use of track sequencing. "The Music of Change" kicks off the program with a very tight, funky groove which would not be out of place on an Isley Brothers record. Two tracks later, "Go Quietly Now..." does just that, bringing down the pace but not the passionseveral lovely solo measures merit close attention. This is pretty much the pattern for the remainder of the set, with a mix of up-tempo riffs interspersed with searching, ambient excursions.
Many of the tracks or individual passages thereof lend themselves to visual interpretation. Some of the melodies evoke a sense of Mike Post on psychedelics, and would perhaps be right at home as the theme of a '70s television police drama. Other moments conjure fractals, inner and outer space, and other abstractions. Not for nothing was Little's 2010 collection of recordings in this vein titled Mandela (Simon Little, 2010).
Little, who has eclectic pop credentials, having recorded and performed with Ben Folds, Chris Difford, Nick Cave and, most notably, The Divine Comedy, has opted for the path of a digital-only release for his recordings. A pertinent ramification of this decision is that, in addition to being available in the standard MP3 and AAC formats at most retailers, the artist's own website offers high-end, 24-bit audiophile formats. The Knowledge of Things to Come is a headphones record, with quite a dynamic range. The token amount of extra hard drive space that the lossless files occupy will be the right way to go for many listeners.
Track Listing: The Music of Chance; Babel Fish; Go Quietly Now...; Some Mysterious Song; No Strings Attached; Harlequin Valentine; The Band Sounds Like Typewriters; Baliset; L for Leather; The Knowledge of Things to Come.
Personnel: Simon Little: bass, live looping.
Record Label: Self Produced