Illegal Art’s first release of Fair Use mayhem following Girl Talk’s Night Ripper is the latest from artist James Towning, aka Realistic.
“Following the aesthetic of Negativland and John Oswald, Realistic borrows material from every possible source: classic rock, disco, self-improvement records, soap operas [and more]. Towning demonstrates a knack for unconventional looping, sonic accumulation, and a good joke.” – All Music Guide
Realistic’s third album, Perpetual Memory Loss, features sixteen tracks of intricate sample-based compositions – a beautifully sophisticated celebration of found sound, recorded media, technology, and electronic composition. Slices of field recordings mesh with surreal electronic melodies, which creates enjoyably odd multi-layered musical fun. Realistic is the guise of sound collage artist James Towning, by day a Brooklyn-based motion-graphics designer.
With this release, the Illegal Art label continues to challenge the restrictions of copyright as perceived by the larger music industry. The uniqueness of Realistic in comparison to other artists on the label (Girl Talk, Oh Astro, Steinski) further illustrates that sample-based music is strikingly some of the most original, innovative, and exciting music being made in the 21st century. Illegal Art claims Fair Use for all of its releases and has professional legal counsel nearby if needed.
Towning has been a fan of electronic music since his college days, mostly the UK scene. Artists like Human League, Soft Cell, Cabaret Voltaire, Wire, Art of Noise, and Meat Beat Manifesto were early influences, while Mu-ziq and Kid Koala can be counted as contemporary ones. In a recent interview Towning says, “I also go off on binges of Queen, ELO, XTC, The Beatles, and Bowie.”
A recurring source in Towning’s compositions is the nostalgic sounds of 70’s and 80’s techno-pop and rock artists that were personally influential over the years. As well as using computer-based waveform editing and sampling, Towning carries a portable digital recorder to capture various audio environments on a daily basis. Whether the source samples are found around the house, on TV, on a busy Chinatown street, or a crackly sound effects record, Realistic‘s juxtaposition of head-spaces always creates something surreal and altogether new.
“There’s such a rich texture of sound and visuals in New York. I’m constantly entertained with the sounds that I record,” said Towning in a recent interview. An ever-increasing collection of thrift-store records and cassettes is another likely source of audio inspiration. “I love composing little sound pieces using whatever source material I choose. It’s a cathartic, fun, and essential part of my life.”
With Perpetual Memory Loss, the Realistic sound has evolved into a tighter and more structured mesh of musical patterns and mangled beats. Tiny rhythmic patterns and subtle textural layers are revealed upon repeated listening. Sampled dialogue is used more sparingly than in previous Realistic releases allowing the musical voices to be heard more clearly. Each complex track is its own self-contained little world, with disjointed characters, funky grooves, and odd but familiar musical samples. Throughout the 45-minute album, expressionistic patterns of sound twist and fold into one another as the tracks evolve. At times the entire audio spectrum degrades and distorts in groovy syncopation. The tracks on Perpetual Memory Loss are more complex and refined, but what remains is the underlying sense of humor, rich production, and an offbeat composition style that is distinctively Realistic.
Regarding the album’s unique artwork, Towning explains, “The CD art was designed by me. It consists of many thumbnails of snapshots I’ve taken over the past three years or so. That timeframe coincides with the production of the audio tracks, too. The snapshots represent memories in a very literal way. They vary in subject matter from pictures of my cats, still-lifes, industrial landscapes, detailed textures, and random found art. The inside artwork reveals more snapshot thumbnails in varying degrees of clarity.”
Towning further elaborates, “Beneath the CD, a collage of found images and photographs explodes and bleeds over into the snapshots. The technique of collaging with found and personal imagery reflects the style of the audio tracks too. The primary colors of red and green that I chose were inspired by and derived from a vintage Christmas card I received from a friend a few years ago. Again, a nostalgic reference.”
As for the title Perpetual Memory Loss, Towning says it “speaks to the process of growing older and the mind’s ability to store, lose, and constantly distort memories. And how sometimes those memories are recalled in a random and overlapping order. As we get older, more and more memories are stored while others are buried deep or lost. The title also references the similarities between the ever expanding human mind and a computer’s finite hard drive and its ability to retrieve random and corrupt data.”
Videos From Previous Realistic Releases:
“Private Moments”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJAaDZZawLo
“Music for Voyeurs”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzIUnevtrFc
“Angel 2001”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ0eKMJKnm0
“Spectacle of Slop”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bTYS2HQqqI
Perpetual Memory Loss Tracklisting:
Release Date: October 23, 2007
01. The Camera Track (MP3)
02. Music in the Round
03. Conversation Hearts
04. Post-Corporate Fantasy
05. Amazing Fall
06. Welcome to Heaven
07. Brand Name Sunday
08. Library Music
09. Wandering Aimlessly
10. Have a Nice Trip
11. April and August Sixth
12. There is Always More
13. In Loving Memory
14. Snowday Plaything (MP3)
15. The Numbers Test
16. Uneventful Fall