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Keith Fullerton Whitman
Keith Fullerton Whitman
Playthroughs
Kranky


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Modena"

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Seeking serenity? Afraid of getting hooked on those chill pills everybody's been bugging you to take, but need to seriously relax? On Playthroughs, Keith Fullerton Whitman offers an aural escape into minimalist ambient music, so get out your comfy slippers and turn off the telephone ringer.

Playthroughs comprises five droners that call to mind the more minimal soundscapes of Flying Saucer Attack. The album is Whitman's labor of love; he also does time in drum 'n' bass purveyors Hrvatski, but this album is distinctly more serene than Hrvatski's efforts.

The entire record is crafted exclusively from acoustic and electronic guitar tracks, but you'll be hard pressed to find anything here that suggests guitar work, because Whitman manipulated all the sounds through a laptop. (For you audio-technophiles out there, Whitman ran the tracks through ring modulators, granular shuffling algorithms and delays, among other effects).

Playthroughs opens with "Track3a(2waynice)", a hypnotic and gradual layering of harmonized tones, so delicate that it resembles a combination of the sound of a jet streaking far overhead and that odd, high-pitched ringing in the ears you get when a TV is on somewhere nearby. The subsequent track, "Feedback Zwei", begins with a discordant buzz that fades into another drawn-out but subtle soundscape underpinned by gently thumping bass notes.

Whitman looked to minimalist composers/pioneers Terry Riley and Steve Reich for inspiration while working on Playthroughs. The disc's final track, "Modena", noticeably relies on Reich-style repetition and phasing to weave a tapestry of tones that would fit comfortably on Brian Eno's Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, while "Fib01a", which crafts guitar tones into percussive bubbling sounds that give the song an additional (but still relaxed) sonic dimension, offers many of Playthroughs' most vibrant moments.

For those harboring a nascent interest in ambient fare, Playthroughs isn't a bad place to start exploring, as it packs little discordance into its feather-light punch. The absence of beats might put off newbies and those hoping to find Whitman expanding on his efforts with Hrvatski, but most listeners will find it to be a relaxing record with substantial layered nuance to reward repeat spins.



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