Artist: Add n to (x)/Fridge
Title: Demon Seed/Asthma
Format: 12" Single
Catalogue Number: PIAO! 10
Year of Release: 1997
Notable features: Add n to (x) side features the drumming of Stereolab’s Andy Ramsey. Label says 45rpm, but is in fact pressed at 33rpm.
A Demon Seed (7:50)
B Asthma (6:58)
Demon Seed sounds like it should be a horror film in the Rosemary’s Baby vein, and this early split single featuring the new line-up of Add n to (x) carries on the uneasy listening soundtrack vibe started on 1996’s Vero Electronics. A half-speed synth bassline kicks things off, and continues (almost) throughout, with Hitchcock-like plucked strings and tinkling pianos (which I’m assuming were done with the Korg MS-10 credited on the sleevenotes, as the only other synths mentioned are Moogs) giving the track a B-movie horror feel.
Then you get to Ann Shenton’s bits (as it were). I thought this track was an instrumental, but Ann is credited with “whispering and moog”, which brought an initial shudder of fear that it was going to be something along the lines of Gilli Smyth’s godawful “space whispers” that ruined many a half-decent Gong track. Instead, she says things like “change me... just one snip” and “this is the undergarment”. Something else along the lines of “stinking wet... and this is where I came”.
It’s kind of hard to make out, as someone appears to have hit a button on their synth marked ‘air raid siren’, and they can’t switch it off. I’m sure she also says, “choke me” at one point, so there’s obvious references to sexual practices, but whether she’s trying to be sexy or cool and aloof is anyone’s guess. From the sleeve I’d say sexy, but it doesn't quite work.
The horror soundtrack spell has been broken, but it's just a bit uncomfortable instead, like seeing a sex-toy in Marks & Spencer’s might be.
It ticks over like this for a bit longer, and I was beginning to wish it was at 45rpm record, just so that it would be over a bit quicker, when the drums came in. This is essentially just some effected clattering, but quite welcome. The echoes get switched off after a minute, and beats and keyboard riffs continue, excepting that lovely slow bassline, which has mysteriously vanished.
I actually got up at this point to see how much was left to play on the record, and turned it down a bit, which I think is one of the seven signs of ageing.
The echo switch gets flicked on the drum channel again, and a different, but also very slow, bassline comes back in. Then it all stops very abruptly, as if they had just run out of space on the record, or there was a power cut. Curious.
Why Fridge have chosen to call their contribution to this split 12” Asthma I don’t know. Unlike Tricky’s Vent or Aphex Twin’s Ventolin it doesn’t manage to convey the feeling of fighting for breath against your ever-constricting breathing tubes.
In fact, the only other review I’ve seen of the track calls it “airy dub”, which makes no sense whatsoever. This is about as dub as my mum.
It’s a decent enough instrumental, recorded apparently in ‘Sam’s room’ and it sounds like Sam has just got himself a fancy new 8-track. There’s backwards drums running through the track (which is about the first thing you experiment with when you’ve got a multi-track tape recorder) then on top of that some forward drumming, which alternates between going out of time with the bassline and threatening to turn into a breakbeat, the bassline itself (which is heavy, but a heavy bassline does not a dub tune make) some nice cleanly-picked guitar lines, then about 3 minutes in a high, quiet keyboard solo.
It’s all very Tortoise, or early Ganger before they thought a vocalist would be a good idea (which it wasn’t). I was particularly interested listening to the keyboard solo, as towards the end said keyboardist is wandering aimlessly around the notes, having peaked a bit too soon with their melody, and realising they’ve got another 2 minutes to fill, and they've decided (unwisely) that restating the main theme again is not an option. Towards the very end, the drums slow right down, there's some multitracked guitar harmonics, for which the only real description is 'nice', and it stops. This might have been a better track if they’d done a few more takes...
you can pick it up on the Sevens and Twelves compilation, which is recommended,
but it’s hardly the stand-out track of the compilation.
Kieran Hebden, after spending some time on folktronica autopilot with his Fourtet project, is now doing very interesting stuff with drummer Steve Reid. Go and see them live if you can.
Whilst add n to (x) are now defunct, Fridge are getting back together for touring in 2006, according to their website. It's also news to me that the bassist in Fridge, Adem Ilhan, is this Adem, He's obviously coming up quite soon in the reviews, after some more add to n to (x) business.