Dave Fleet’s new “social experiment” features a sprawling cast of underground artists
Proof, if it were needed, of the old adage that mighty oaks from little acorns grow. For the latest Laica project, on his Arell imprint, Dave Fleet (who we featured in our 50 For 15 ones to watch feature back in January) has assembled an entire album from a tiny little beat tapped out on his wooden desk as he set up his equipment.
After tidying up the eight-second rhythm, Fleet invited similar musical minds to manipulate the loop as they saw fit, and then twisted and tinkered with the new segments to create what became ’Tppr’. He’s rustled up a cast of underground electronic artists, which brings to mind Nurse With Wound’s infamous list of like-minded individuals and groups – Concrete/Field, Yves De Mey, Antony Ryan, Joe Ahmed, the wonderfully-named Grief Athletes, David Oxley, Chris Dooks, TVO, Dil23, Farmer Glitch, Rabid Gravy, Thee Balancer, Hermetech, Kendle Mintcake, Simplicity Is Beauty and Chra.
It’s probably impossible for anyone other than Fleet to identify which of his collaborators did what on the final 35-minute single track. His aspiration, from the note he sent out to his collaborators, was to “create something sprawling and complex out of something that is very short and very simple.” And that’s exactly what he’s achieved with ‘Tppr’.
The record is loaded with episodic stop-start moments, switching from Thomas Köner-esque, barely-there ambient static to impenetrably dark and heavy passages, from wobbly synth textures to echo-y dub. At times, you hear the distant echoes of industrial bands like Nagamatzu, or maybe the grinding guitar angst of Trent Reznor in soundtrack mode. It’s a piece with little levity, more a slowly-developing piecemeal electronic jam loaded with heavy emotion arising from head-scratchingly simple origins. On occasion, it’s just possible to make out what might have been Fleet’s original rhythm, a light, barely perceptible, earthy tap, but then again it might also be a figment of your imagination.
The challenge with taking your lead from so many varied sources is that it could result in something lacking any semblance of coherence. To Fleet’s credit, ‘Tppr’ sounds like it all belongs happily together. While it retains a natural diversity of sources and ideas that bubble up at what might seem like random intervals, what emerges is a work that feels carefully composed. The best trick in Fleet’s repertoire is somehow making this all sound exactly like you’d expect a Laica album to sound – dark, moody, expansive and loaded with just a trace of paranoia that you’re being watched, recorded and exploited.
Fleet had no idea how ‘Tppr’ might turn out, whether it would spawn a potentially infinite number of shard-like variations constantly feeding back and forth, or whether it would just fizzle out into nothingness. The result is something that his inchoate table-top rhythm could never have suggested on its own, but with the power of imagination he’s ended up with a record that pushes at the limits and boundaries.