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Music Review

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Pocket Music


Artist: James Caldwell
Label: Neuma Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 19 March 2021

Whereas some might consider music to be a soundtrack to their lives, an add-on, James Caldwell reaches deep into the spaces around him for sonic potential and helps it emerge. For more than twenty years he has pursued a sporadic project of making small musique concrète pieces...

For the original project of Pocket Music James Caldwell used sounds he made with things he found in his pockets while working in the studio - coins, keys, plastic pill bottle, comb, paperback book, rubber band, and a screwdriver struck against a wrench. (It is possible he put one or two of those things in my pocket expressly so he could find it there.)

As he returned to the project, he continued working with small found sounds, but not necessarily things from his pockets: ping-pong balls, a stapler, M&M's, binder clips, finger cymbals, a pencil run over the rungs on the back of a chair dresser handles, the bag from a bunch of apples from the grocery store, a wine glass, and then - moving outside into his yard - cicadas, lawn furniture, garden stones in a wheelbarrow, birds, the distant rumble of the Macomb Speedway, and some odds and ends sitting around on his hard drive.

While the sounds are, at times interesting and unusual, I couldn't help asking the question "Why?" Who needs this? Who would listen to this?

"Avante garde" is a wonderful catch-all for modern, self indulgent nonsense. Nowhere have I felt this more than on Pocket Music. This is experimental, electronic manipulation that at times sounds like it was inspired by The BBC's Radiophonic Workshop sound effects albums from the '70s - most notably BBC Radiophonic Workshop - 21, Doctor Who Sound Effects and Out of This World.

I don't think anyone, in their right mind can class this as "music" unless they consider the fringes of electronic sound effects as music. This is a bizarre collection of electronically manipulated sounds. It might be the sort of thing a small child will obsess over... but I didn't enjoy it... I just didn't get the point of it.


Nick Smithson

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