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good news about space, or london 2000.

with jez potter as shirt trax

reviews

"Despite suggestions that Shirt Trax is a project somehow affiliated to Gescom or Boards of Canada, it is actually the work of Mark Fell and Jezz Potter. Mark is also one half of the Brilliant SND project who have released material on their own, eponymous label, as well as Mille Plateaux. Shirt Trax is a stripped down electronic affair. Blips and bleeps which have been placed in seemingly random sequencing programmes but which sometimes grow into delicately structured works of beauty. Recommended." Pelican Neck (USA)

shirt trax, mark fell and jez potter, fraisethorpe beach 1999

"The future of dance music has already started - we've been reporting on this before. We call it Microwave, because of all the microscopic beats, minimal changes et all. The entrepeneurs behind OR do not refer to this... Shirt Trax are among the microwavers. It's one half of SND and one DJ. Their first CD is very long - the entire length is used. That is a pity, because it's a strong album, but there are two lengthy tracks which could have used a cut. Then a shorter CD of 50 minutes of very strong material would have remained. This is were industrial and dance meet. Chopped up beats, pasted with cracks, pops, hiss and noise, vividly mixed with electronica and sampled - crashed down on a laptop no doubt - if you were not in Mego's alley already, then it's the next corner. If SND was too normal for you (hey, that can be!), and you are looking for something more wild, Shirt Trax is there for you." VITAL (The Netherlands)

"Oval, Ryoji Ikeda, Pita, Farmer's Manual, Bernhard Günter, and now this. Last heard from on the Ash 3.9 "Decay" compilation, Shirt Trax are Mark Fell (member of snd) and Jeremy Potter. 18 tracks, 74+ minutes recorded 1995-1998. "All of the tracks involve the use of the computer as a performance tool. However we didn't want to use some complex software or system, or spend ages programming structures to generate sound. So lots of what you hear is what can be done on a sampler in real time, or in a sequencer in real time Although most of the material is edited down, there are no overdubs or pre-programmed structures." -- Mark Fell. Shirt Trax make mean, aggressive computer game noises (and, specifically, as if from the primitive era of computer games, 1981). High-pitched pings are strung together with sharp glass-jar knockings, all while mechanized bulldozers roam around, being hit by blips and rocks. This CD is callous, like little kids are when they want to torment you. And recommended, especially if you like stuff from Mego. Doesn't come with a booklet or any info, fyi." [RE, USA]

Unlike the cold, hard neon focus of peers like Hecker, Shirt Trax (snd's Mark Fell and Brighton based Jeremy Potter) are alive to a more diverse, scattershot approach to electronic minimalism. Tiny digital squiggles and pulses, squeals, clicks, pops, clanks, motor rhythms and lock grooves whirr and writhe across the sound spectrum. Moments of extreme restraint are followed by bursts of frantic exuberance. Taken as a whole, this is a seriously contrary and unstable album, which leaves it to the listener to formulate some sense from its micro-mega mess of squirming and sprawling shapes. (The Wire)

Sheffield's snd may have named their dust-mite dub project after the common extension for sound files, but Shirt Trax a duo comprising snd's Mark Fell along with fellow laptop pioneer Jez Potter make even more deliberate use of computer aesthetics. Just as the filename-like track titles (like "ai_pin") might suggest, their music sounds like lines of programmer's code inadvertently turned into audio output. Chirps and bleeps abound, churning and puttering in happy abandon. Where most minimalism relies on repetition for its power, for Shirt Trax, form appears as accidental as a game of pick up sticks, with tones and rhythms falling together momentarily, assuming fleeting bitmaps of beauty before crumbling again into undifferentiated whir. While a few of the pieces, at 14 and 16 minutes long, test the staunchest noise aficianado's endurance, the majority of the tracks here are minute-long statements, exercises in pixel-pointillism that shimmer into nothingness as quickly as they appear. Battling as a first encounter with Linux, but well worth the payoff. (Philip Sherburne, Alternative Press USA)

"More like 'Hairshirt Trax,'" commented the wag next to me at work, but he was way off the mark. Shirt Trax's ritalin pixelvision may be nothing like the soothing dub-chirp of S.T. member Mark Fell's other project, snd, but for an ostensible noise record, it's still an oddly understated affair. "Noise" here doesn't suggest anything on the scale of Merzbow, but rather sound caught on the cusp of organization. Never quite accidental, the structures that do manage to lock together give way to random gravities before falling together in new patterns. These are snapshots of atomic energies, imposing order only by stripping away a third dimension. The longer pieces write entire chapters on silicon biologies, but most of the tracks hover around one minute long, resembling microscopic slides of sound-cells twitching and splitting under the pressure of the lens.Phil Sherburne

Shirt Trax is the collaborative workings of minimalist electro-organic producers Mark Fell and Jeremy Potter, two UK compatriots who view their gene of music with an entirely different set of Sheffield-sound glasses. Good News About Space is a premier example chronicling the intellectually stimulating trip of an electrode racing across a live-wire computer circuit board. Similar to an Autechre remixed entirely by Pan Sonic, Shirt Trax uses easily generated sampled real-time sounds as the base structure for a majority of the minimalist chaos. The tracks enumerated in logarithm tech-speak neither resemble each other in form or shape, allowing the difficult yet simple sound formations to resonate long after the music has stopped. (Alkemist, Boston's Weekly Dig)

The GOOD NEWS ABOUT SPACE, as reported by Jeremy “Jez” Potter and snd’s Mark Fell, is that space may be rife with curious noises yet comfortably quiet. This seems like a contradiction, but Shirt Trax wouldn’t agree. The duopresents its real-time sampler and programming productions as stretches of silence punctured relentlessly by the tiniest of digital disturbances. Just as droplets of pond water or colonies of replicating bacteria appear unspectacular to the naked eye, Shirt Trax’s densely populated microsound pieces could be mistaken for minimalism by a careless ear. Come in for a closer listen (raise the volume, if you must), and you’ll actually find GOOD NEWS ABOUT SPACE teeming with audio activity. Scintilla of melody and rhythm swarm in the sound spaces of such Trax tracks as “a]fork,” “crtL,” “and “ab/reMem.” Particles appear at higher levels of magnification within the macro-sonic soup of “a2|NUM,” “aL18,” “aF~fear,” “sA:a iden/aab;15,” and the 14-minute “b:parent,“ assuming cluster-form configurations that almost resemble skeletal techno tunes. More often, however, Shirt Trax’s shrill atomic chirps, pixel bursts, and nanotechnological glitches float by undetected, like flecks diffused throughout a medium of apparent but deceptive crystal-clarity.

The Sound Projector (UK) 18 bedevilled tracks here almost entirely realised using computers by Mark Fell and Jeremy Potter, who didn't however want to waste lots of time working with programming and sequencing. So a lot of this 'Good News' is brought to us by real-time playing on samplers. To their credit, Shirt Trax have a credo that runs 'we're not so much about the aesthetics of digital glitches or broken systems. We can't relate to that'. Given that Fell's other activities shade into installation art and that Potter is a Brighton-based DJ, a glib first impression would cast this record as bridging the gap between experimental art and dance music. Perhaps this kind of sound might just appeal to lovers of dance and Techno music, but this is a wholly wrong assumption...Shirt Trax certainly use dance-ish beats, but only a dedicated twitcher could slip into the shaking groove for the five or six seconds allowed before this music reverts to its brilliantly insanely illogical sequencing of strange and unearthly noises. 'Perplexing' doesn't even begin to describe this mind-melding mŽlange of sounds - these Shirt Trax are fucking with our minds big time. 20 odd tracks of totally electronic relentless absurdist pranks, mostly abstract noise of a highly appealing mode. But occasionally lapsing into jokey retro styled nonsense that seems quaint, old-fashioned, imaginary soundtrack for non-existent 1950s cartoons or used in another imaginary World's Fair pavilion in some never-never land of the brain. 'We were aware of the kind of academic history of what we were doing, but we didn't relate to that either', muse Short Trax. You see, how music like this can make you remember things that never happened in the first place? Memory implants through art. People are always afraid of how computers might be able to rewrite history...one effective way to do this is to rewire people's brains with false impressions and false memories. There is no 'good news about space', after all Matt Groening's Futurama shows us a world where they've even forgotten who was the first man to land on the moon!




© mark fell, modified June 07, 2008, at 04:39 AM edit print