|answering machine #1|
|bird in the air (xingu hill remix)|
|hey ash (atlas' anthem remix by solenoid)|
|carbon (end remix)|
|paper boy (main post boy remix by telepherique)|
|answering machine #2|
|180 (cientos y ochenta remix by chango feo)|
|j. doesn't do acid anymore (gridlock remix)|
|jazz interludes for looney tunes|
|desire of (p.a.l remix)|
|february and march (burning rome version)|
|answering machine #3|
'i like cactus because they are prickly and green and don't use much
they are spiny on the outside and all soft and mushy on the inside. you can't
touch them but when you cut them open with a knife, you can suck out their life
water and even eat their flesh. yum…' neutral.
nicole elmer likes cacti.
random though that fact may be, it’s as good a place to start as any when diving into the woman behind neutral - and her captivating new remix album, caller id.
the first similarity that nicole shares with cacti is sheer mind-boggling variety. over a thousand varieties of cactus can be found in texas - where she was born and now lives - ranging from flowering little bulbs that fit on your window sill to the huge saguaro most commonly associated with old western films.
likewise, nicole’s musical lineage crosses dozens of genes. she’s worked at nothing studios, and initiated creative collaborations with scott herren (prefuse 73, delarosa and asora, savath + savalas) and charlie cooper (telefon tel aviv). she ditched studio art at nyu for electronic music after seeing emergency broadcast network live. she spun birthday cakes on turntables with her squab teen partner austin luminais in new orleans while also running the fledgling electronic label chromosome 57. she’s been characterized as a mixture of indie-pop icon pj harvey, glitch superstar kid606, wacko laptop phenoms blectum from blechdom, and the protean industrial of early nine inch nails.
for caller id, nicole turned over tracks from her debut album, 1999’s font translation errors, the 2001 mini album driving backwards, and her critically acclaimed second album, 2002’s motion of, to a similarly diverse group of remixers. among them are well known ant-zen and hymen noise arbiters xingu hill, p•a•l, and telepherique as well as newcomers like the cinematically-driven end. and since caller id, like motion of, is a joint release with mad monkey records, it seemed fitting to bring in mad monkey labelmates burning rome and chango-feo for this finale. rounding out the remixer list are oregon’s best-kept electro twiddling secret solenoid and famed digital break stylists gridlock.
but caller id isn’t just remixes. fans of her music will find three unreleased tracks woven into the release, adding a cohesiveness to caller id that makes it more than a simple collection of diverse remixes. caller id feels like a new album, much like mad monkey’s first release - on which neutral appears - the legendary enter the monkey compilation. fittingly, caller id closes the loop for not only neutral and her first creative incarnation, but for mad monkey as well.
back to the cacti. they’re are also called succulents, primarily because they store up as much life giving water as they can in order to survive the harshest of earthly climates. similarly, neutral’s musical palette runs in broad emotional strokes so full of fleshy, rich passion that it’s hard to imagine she did it with synths and a sampler.
beginning with font translation errors - which mad monkey first introduced in an edition of 23 wooden cages with a stuffed monkey - neutral’s sound charted the sonic territory between fat industrial rhythms and dense, imagist lyrics, all at a time when most electronic musicians were crawling up their own asses with laptops and plug-ins. nicole’s unique sound caught the eye of planet-? impresario mike paradinas, who subsequently released her 7-inch beef bouillon/my sweatshirt after playing with her at the inaugural safety in numbers festival in new york.
neutral’s vinyl-only mini album driving backwards appeared as mad monkey’s first joint release with hymen just a few months later, pounding out more evocative sound for her growing fan base. but it took nicole over a year to find the feeling she wanted for motion of. simultaneously heart wrenching and subtle, motion of shed the artifice of electronic music’s go-go attitude with a remarkable combination of traditional instruments and masterful songwriting. again, neutral’s music was hailed as an antidote to the cold, calculated music produced by her software-laden peers; neutral’s music persevered through the torrent of glitch and clickpop to produce a juicy warm fruit for everyone’s ears.
the succulent nature of neutral comes out crystal clear in the remixes that make up caller id. one of the more startling inclusions is xingu hill’s radical dissection of “bird in the air.” xingu hill’s john sellekaers carves out the steamy guitar flesh of the original, substituting a complex machination of static pops and digital effects, forging a metallic facsimile true in spirit to the original. telepherique applies a chilled salve of industrial effects to make “paper boy” a most relaxing, contemplative track. mark kolmar of burning rome reconstructs “february and march” from driving backwards into a bass-driven pop instrumental that’s simultaneously somber and invigorating.
verily, every track on caller id is a work to be savored. mike cadoo, who as part of gridlock turned “j doesn’t do acid anymore” into a velvety synth dirge, muses on this a bit, noting that neutral is intriguing “because her tunes are far different than that of the usual suspects we remix.”
“nicole is really genre-less,” he continues, “and we thought it would be good fun to mash up her stuff.”
with an artist of such expansive talents as neutral, it’s a unique challenge for remixers to produce something that adds to the original instead of detracting, suggests end’s charles peirce. “well, you know, there's always this weird balance with remixes about how far you take it away from the original, and i definitely wanted to preserve the original character of (‘carbon’) - that nice heavy groove in particular and i really appreciated that she had bothered to put some vocals on things.”
“it's one of those remixes that i actually overworked quite a bit, really approached from a lot of different angles,” he says. “i had even written a whole long keyboard melody for it at one point -- but then found it all worked better once i stripped that all back and just let it be the original rhythm and voice, albeit through some filters.”
all of this aside, neutral and cacti share one other thing - there’s always a prick involved. there’s a story locked inside the “answering machine” tracks that’s as thorny as they come, and interestingly enough, at the heart of neutral’s artistic powers.
but we’ll save that story for another time.
for the hymen and mad monkey labels, the release of neutral’s caller id marks the end of one collaborative chapter and the beginning of another. in particular mad monkey records wants to pass along a message to everyone who has supported the label and neutral since the start: so long and thanks for all the bananas.
but for neutral, caller id is an opportunity to cook up a fresh batch of “prickly pears” and look forward to a flowering musical future.
i sometimes wish i was equipped with a un mandate to slap people over the head for not recognizing talent when it was in plain sight. neutral is such a case. the most criminally underrated woman in current electronica, nicole elmer got everything it takes to console both warring camps, but is ignored by both. she explores sound like no other, pushing the experimental envelope in noise, electro-acoustic, glitch, beat science, plug-in navel-gazing all at once. she also writes the perfect pop songs, embellishing her catchy tracks with raspy vocals (which garnered her the fitting qualifier "pj harvey of electronica") and acoustic instruments like piano and guitar. her fragmented, deconstructed, corrosive style comes across as quite organic and alive which led me once to call it "music filtered through an encrusted tea strainer." there is warmth, compassion and emotionality in her melodious sample patchwork, but also enough abrasion to satisfy any aggressive needs. traces of pretty hate machine era nin mingle with autechre ambient, kid606 laptop chaos and tori amos singer/songwriter loveliness. caller id now is a remix album that doesn’t’ sound like one. taking tracks from her three previous releases on hymen and mad monkey records, she allows an illustrious crowd consisting of gridlock, pal, xingu hill, end, telepherique, solenoid, chango feo and burning rome to have a field day with her brittle structures, ranging from grating ambient to downtempo electronica. especially successful renditions are end’s driving electronica version of "carbon," the majestic synth-patch fest by gridlock and the reverberating drone darkness of pal’s remix. framed by three answering machine messages of a lovesick woman, three new tracks expand on her new found hybridization of acoustic and electronic instrumentation and nicely manage to hold the diverse remix collection together. with mad monkey sadly no longer around, i can only hope there is a label smart enough to pick her up. neutral deserves all the hype she can get. (till)
caller-id n’est pas vraiment un nouvel album puisqu’il contient quand même huit remixes de differents titres provenant des deux précédentes production de neutral, à savoir font translation errors et motion of, ainsi que de nouveaux morceaux dont certains sont des mélanges reconstruits de motion of. c’est une fois de plus l’étrange et atypique univers musical de nicole elmer qui nous est décrit ici. véritable bande-son, faite de collages, d’experimentations et de sensations. difficile de donner un genre, un credo. ca ne ressemble à rien et en même temps à beaucoup de choses. en fait, caller-id s’écoute comme on regarde un film. un bon film, esthétiquement complexe et artificiel comme un dessin animé. les machines se transforment en jouets, mais pourtant rien ne semble naïf ou édulcoré. un film, oui. mais un film noir et torturé, puis primaire et simpliste, à nouveau sombre et machinal, puis hypnotique et pur. un arrière-goût de folie perce parfois. ce sont bel et bien des images qui s’impriment lorsque se joue cut paper, mélodique et touchant, malgré des revirements rythmiques nombreux, chatouillant la fibre noise de neutral et un duo guitare/piano parfait. comment préciser ? electro-rock ? noise-pop ? aucune importance. vient ensuite le premier remix, inauguré par xingu hill. sa reformation de bird in the air prouve une fois de plus la dextérité de john n. sellekaers à modeler les sons. fractures "groovesques" abruptes et guitare nonchalante. le tout agrémenté du chant particulier et doux de nicole. une bonne scène. changement d’ambiance radical durant silent. pesant de tout son ambient brumeux sur les tympans frigorifiés. un requiem de piano à quelques notes vient s’égrainer lugubrement, entrelaçant une voix murmurante et vide. seul un xylophone donne un peu d’air dans cet espace étouffant et gris, avant de venir se déchirer sur les cassures qui s’opèrent au sein même de la
structure du morceau. encore un bon moment. d’ailleurs des bons moments il y en aura d’autres. notamment avec le remix de carbon par end, très rythmé et compact, celui de telepherique, en deux parties, d’abord lent et malsain, puis plus rapide et teinté d’indus, ou encore la touche old school du robotique carbon paper. dernier détour par le remix écrasant de desire of de p.a.l., avant une conclusion claustrophobe et maladive entre le "funky" february and march et le glauque épilogue
answering machine #3. vraiment un bon film. a voir sans l’ombre d’une hésitation.
neutral discography on hymen records. 09.2k3
v/a. enter the monkey. cd. mad monkey
font translation errors. cd.mad monkey
v/a. md1. n5md
driving backwards. lp. hymen records/mad monkey
beef bouilion/my sweatshirt. 7 inch. planet mu (as nicole elmer)
dance america. cd. chromosome 57 (as squab teen)
motion of. cd. hymen records
call id. cd. hymen records
neutral on the web: