By Mabel Suen
By Cassie Kohler
By Evan C. Jones
By RFT Music
By RFT Music
By Tom Finkel
By Ryan Wasoba
By Roy Kasten
Patrick Weston and Travis Bursik of experimental duo Ou Où defy you to hang a name on them. As an instrumental band that uses samplers, synths, effects banks and found sound, everything from hip-hop rhythms to outré art rock gets thrown in the mix on Builded (released last fall). The minute microrhythms of "Berries" owe more to krautrock than the other tracks on the EP, but at the song's halfway point those patterns dissolve into a dubby clatter as the synth drones, once gristly and thick, soften and become ethereal. That reverie is fleeting: A yawning, seesawing sound punctuates the tension. At times like this, when the movements are so momentary that they barely register, it feels like Ou Où is unwilling to settle on one mood for too long — there's always a modulation to be made. The choices are almost always tasteful and interesting, and to hear one sound morph into another is one of the true joys of this kind of experimental music. It just doesn't lend itself to subtle shifts or long-range crescendos when the rug is continually being pulled out from under itself. "Better Sea," the final track on Builded, resolves some of this schizophrenia by anchoring the track to a slowed-down, syrupy dance beat that can sustain the swarms of synth arpeggios that descend unremittingly.
But electronic and experimental music is never really meant to sit unadulterated for too long, and Bursik and Weston's latest EP, Rhythm & Blues No. 1, takes tracks from Builded as well as the pair's 2010 debut, Baron Von Baron, and gives them each an ambient overhaul. And if "ambient" strikes you as a catchall word for electronic music without words or definable verse-chorus-verse structures, the Ou Où method of ambience comes through stripping away each song's rhythmic elements and letting swaths of sound move around the stereo field on their own accord. You could A/B the tracks on the band's Bandcamp page if you really wanted to go trainspotting for the evolutionary shifts, but it's better (and less mentally taxing — trust me) to treat them as independent compositions. Each track shares that slow-growing patience that some of Builded lacks, and these songs have a tidal pull to them. Taken together, these EPs show a duo capable of pantheistic (and sometimes maddening) levels of tinkering while being able to settle into one space and let the sound reveal itself in time.
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