Omit
Tracer
2CD HMS 005


Cracked
November, 2005


Working on the principle that the holes are as important as the solid material Omit reduces his tracks to the most basic sounds, then refurnishes those as well to make them sink in. Longwinded and effect-ridden, languish and ephemeral, this 2CD is nevertheless one of the most condensed an highly reduced electronic works I have heard in the last weeks and months. Its fascinating complexity lies in the structural shifts from music to environmental sounds (mostly urban) but with a remaining percussive element that makes Tracer the darkest and glacially ambient club sounds that are still lounge-able and refreshing. I would call this "chill-music" because the sounds are both slightly freezing as a cool breeze or a weird movie an refreshing like a cool drink, but alas, that word has been overused. Just like "ambient-glitch." Or "Electronica."

Clinton Williams aka Omit likes to wrap himself in a mysterious or at leastclandestine image, leaving out information or visual tapestry that might help the listener to unveil the enigma. Even the cover printing is highly reduced and openly showing the little printing dots that make up the picture, which could be a wave on the sea or a small hill or rock formation or something else. This way he makes people concentrate on the essence the music – except for the not redundant part of people that ignore music completely – which in itself is reduced to the most basic principles and parts. The effect is one of discovering the pristine beauty that lies within the clarity of space and sound, very much like the effect of wandering through a glacial environment. The overall languid pace of the tracks helps to support this image of slow moving organic development, even if there are too much percussive elements to mark Tracer as true ambient. Whereas the dark and sombre atmosphere and the background spheres drifting off into eerie landscapes at times would make superficial listeners file this under electronica / ambient. But hey, that's a wide field, and if you feel the urge to file music, you gotta choose. But take this advise: every categorical system is full of flaws.

It is easy to fall into Omit's tracks. Not quite glitchy percussive sounds paired with longwinded spheres and interspersed noise sounds that are either harsh or soothing make for an interesting and fascinating mix. Various short tracks flow gently into each other and the whole record though produced and recorded over the course of some years has a very compact and up to date feel. Within the microscopic movements of the basic fundament there is always some fine shifts and changes that take the listener forth and into the spiralling trance of the tracks while the screeches or clanker of sounds enrich and liven up the tracks. Somewhere below the surface of the tracks there is a fascinating dynamic going on, but it is muted up here to the point of inrecognizablity except for a vibrating feeling in the fingertips. This could be another glacial metaphor right there.

Most interestingly the sounds he uses begin to near themselves slowly but deliberately to well-known everyday sounds. At times during the longish opener "Sequester" the clatter reminds heavily of somebody frantically hacking on a typewriter (if anybody remembers those old machines), at other times like somebody in the distance working on a circle saw or other heavy machinery, and there is that sound that needle printers used to make when working. Nevertheless the tracks are always far from a natural description of the environment. The artificial nature is remained throughout. It is only at times that nature seems to creep back in. At times he even uses direct sounds such as waves (e.g. on "Rhythm shift" where they are being mutated and overworked instantly) and car sounds. I am slowly getting the feeling that Williams worked according to a strict and written down structural dogma (the track titles being another hint), shifting parts of the sounds around while leaving others out, according to the dogmas he laid down himself. Which would account for the compact and closeness of sound. Nevertheless the results have an organic flow and do not sound overtly artificial. If compared for instance with the concrete music visions of Takuma Itoi, Hanna Hartmann or Black To Comm (to name three artists almost by coincidence that would also fit being filed in the same big box of electronica / ambient.)

I know that it might seem as if I am making a far step when including the sounds of printers and typewriters into nature, but for the modern suburbanite the environmental surrounding includes a lot of wiring and technical infrastructure. We are completely at the will of companies and technologies at all time and most of the time we are heavily trying to ignore the fact that we are unable to survive without this enormous safety net of infrastructure that our society has built around us. But this is just an aside. I don't think that this thought is anywhere close to the point that Omit is trying to make. I am not even sure, if he is trying to make a point or if he is only swaying peacefully in sounds that are at the same time queasy and soothing, uncomfortable and relaxing. On the other hand there is a steady fluxus of noises around us, from the muted sounds of the traffic outside the window to the whirring of the airing of the computer, which are at times at the same basic level as some of the tracks on Tracer. Except for the percussive elements, of course.