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Below Code
(Comatonse C.012 CD)
- Clive Bell

In "The Compiler," The Wire, Issue 242, April 2004.


To celebrate the tenth anniversary of his Comatonse label, Terre Thaemlitz has released a limited edition CD accompanied by a set of striking postcards, Below Code (Comatonse CO12 CD). Striking price too: it's free. Don't rush, the CDs are already gone, but everything can be downloaded as free MP3 files from Thaemlitz's Website ( A Springfield, Missouri born "transgendered electroacoustic musician" now relocated to Tokyo, Thaemlitz has a wide range of concerns with gender and sexuality issues in popular and electronic music. These sometimes lead him up culs de sac rank with academic smells, where music is approved of because of its transgressive agenda or selfconscious decadence, rather than because it's any good. The opener, Riverside 50/50's "Form And Trauma", with its dodgy vocals and intellectual campery, is a worrying start. Christopher Penrose's "Sympathy For A Chump" is computerized nausea and banal robot talk; and having bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno (he played TV's Incredible Hulk) on your answer machine would be fab if he had anything to say. He doesn't. After this opening trio of clunkers, things improve. Echelon's processed little girl's voice is simple and sweet, Yesterday's Heroes (Thaemlitz plus Japanese singer Haco) is forcefully minimalist disco, and Screech know what they are up to with their strings, tablas and moody vocal cut-ups. Takashi Kojima has worked with Otomo Yoshihide and Haco's Viewmaters, and contributes a good computer piece. The straightforwardly Ambient tracks work well: Brad Garton has a yacht mast dinking away in the wind, and "Terre Loves Robin" is Thaemlitz getting spacious with Scanner. Ultra-red, SND and Simon Fisher Turner crop up as well, so we should forgive Thaemlitz's recordings of family members singing and playing accordian waltzes. Affectionate hokum or patronising irony? In Thaemlitz's work it's hard to be sure. (CB)