One of the downsides to a lot of electronic music, to my ears, is how inescapably aware it makes me that everything I’m listening to is being generated by, essentially, black boxes and computer screens. This awareness often lends a sort of aural claustrophobia to the music, not to mention a disspiriting sort of physical blandness. From the time of the earliest musical instruments straight through to the rock’n’roll era, one common element of playing music was the bodily movement required to send sound waves into the air. Generated without commensurate physicality, electronic music has a lot to make up for, as far as I’m concerned.
Adam Sarmiento, the multi-instrumentalist behind I and I, manages somehow to do just this. There are three key elements at work. First is how carefully he chooses his synthesizer sounds, which vary not only in tone but in texture—there’s one that sounds like a crunchy guitar, one that sounds like the desert wind, one that sounds like a funky bass guitar, and a few others I can’t begin to describe. Because of how distinct they are they work together to describe something very much like three-dimensional space. Second is how carefully he uses them—at any point during the song, you can always hear quite clearly what sounds are in play. Lastly is the playful quality of his rubbery, somewhat adenoidal tenor, which many compare to David Byrne but to me is more rightfully likened to similar but subtly different Adrian Belew, and which definitely humanizes the robotic setting.
“The Bottom” is from the second I and I album, White Noise/Black Music, which was released last month via Alchemist Records and Believe Digital France. MP3 via the I and I web site.