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Disruptive Muzak


Sam Kidel's debut for The Death of Rave is a deft subversion of Muzak's meaning, application and affect, employing government call centers as unwitting agents in a stroke of Cagean and Kafka-esque compositional genius. It's a remarkably innovative, emotive and incisive 20 minute sound piece (with an additional 20 minute version on the other side) that reflects and refracts an aspect of the modern world in a way that arguably few other records have achieved. In aesthetic, Disruptive Muzak highlights a range of ambient, electro-acoustic and aleatoric composition techniques intersecting classical minimalism, dub and vaporwave spheres, all whilst revealing a spectrum of regional British accents commonly heard in call centers, yet seldom heard on record, certainly in this context. Disruptive Muzak also questions our relationship with music and technology, economics and socio-politics. By subtly but straight-facedly inverting the delivery and reception of Muzak, Kidel subverts its meaning, hypnotically suspending the listener in its lush, lingering sub bass swoops and piano motifs but, paradoxically beckoning the call center staff and us listeners to pay attention to the subtext of what is normally considered background sound or noise. Make no mistake, though: the artist is definitely not taking the piss out of call center workers; if anything he's highlighting a dreamy melancholy and detachment in their tedious roles and tortuous systems, one known from first-hand experience. The way in which Kidel executes the idea, both musically and conceptually, is little short of breathtakingly emotive and cathartic. Mastered and cut to vinyl by Matt Colton at Alchemy.
"This piece came about during a research project into Muzak in 2015... Research by the Muzak Corporation found that Muzak must sound familiar, predictable, and non-disruptive to be effective. Drawing from this research, I composed a series of pieces that I call Disruptive Muzak. These pieces share a similar sound palette to Muzak, but their structure is less familiar, less predictable and more disruptive. To test these compositions I called up government offices that use Muzak in their telephone queues and played them down the phone instead of my voice. The music I played and the officials' responses were recorded and assembled into the piece that you hear on Side A. Side B contains the music only, that can be used to DIY." --Sam Kidel, 2016