Roadside Picnic – Failed Frankenstein (2xC30, Autistic Campaign)

Glitch, harsh noise, Noise, Review

failed frankensteinI’ve reviewed another of Justin Wiggan’s Roadside Picnic releases before, but it has little in common with Autistic Campaign’s big-box release of Failed Frankenstein, a five-track series of cut-up noise sounds with lots of warbling and texture throughout. To be honest, the actual theme of Roadside Picnic’s release escapes me to some extent, mostly because I can’t seem to find context to the references used on the second tape; but even without that meaning, the sounds themselves are a good representation of Roadside Picnic stitching together an amalgamation of noise parts into a patchwork whole.

The first tape’s A-side features the two title tracks, “Failed Frankenstein” and “Rectified Frankenstein.” “Failed Frankenstein” is the most difficult listen of either tape, a series of crackles, tape manipulations, and sounds that are abbreviated by pops and spaces in the track. It’s all held together fairly well, though it takes a couple of listens to see the appeal in Roadside Picnic’s Frankensteinian creation of utilizing different sound sources with lots of silence and stuttering in between. “Rectified Frankenstein” comes together with creature moans and some more static.

The other parts of Failed Frankenstein are slightly more walled in texture. “Paris 1953” starts, then cuts out for about 15 seconds before picking up with a heavy static crackle, opening up later in the track. The second tape, the two part “Egypt 1974,” is a series of glitchy feedback loops and circuitry squeals, varying slightly within the tracks but ultimately maintaining the segmented, splotchy texture that is perpetuated across this release. Roadside Picnic is emphasizing the use of pops, stutters, and glitches on Failed Frankenstein, and for the most part it works very well to draw attention to how interesting that sounds to the ears. “Part 2” does even more with the textured layering of sound, working in a shimmering feedback loop, extra-crackly static, and the occasional synth working through high octaves.

Failed Frankenstein is an interesting experiment, one that often works. The way Roadside Picnic has managed to create patterns out of his warbled patchy tracks is entertaining to say the least, and over the course of this two-tape release, the artist manages to come up with new techniques to make the method feel unique on each. Failed Frankenstein is a monster made up of different pieces, but they cohere into something that’s can’t be considered a failure.

Roadside Picnic with John Byrne – Nightlitter (C70, Red Light Sound)

dark ambient, Drone, Noise, Review

roadside picnic

Roadside Picnic’s sole member Justin Wiggan joins forces with John Byrne of Cindytalk on Nightlitter. The album is a solitary track at 35 minutes in length on a single-sided cassette tape, and the titular track weaves its way through ambiance and minimalism during its runtime.

Nightlitter is a very quiet recording, and that has as much to do with the dubbing as it does with Roadside Picnic and John Byrne’s original intent. The track is certainly minimal enough, with quiet droning synths that ebb and flow with low bursts of bass to help punctuate. In a sense, this is music to listen to when you have a headache, or taking a bath – some soothing salve for a bad day, perhaps. I could see Nightlitter playing in a really swanky cafe, the patrons commenting how serene it is while sipping their tiny cups of espresso.

And yet it’s difficult to tell whether that enduring quietness of the tape is actually supposed to be, or if it’s because the cassette’s dubbing is poor. Listening to Nightlitter on the Red Light Sound’s Bandcamp, I’d have to go with the latter – the mix on the tape is so much lower than normal, to the point where I had to turn my stereo all the way up to hear it. I’m not complaining about the quality of the tape, because I don’t really get into that nor do I care about it; but when the volume starts to affect how the track is interpreted, that’s kind of a problem.

It’s unfortunate, because Nightlitter often sounds like it could be a jet flying high overhead, cutting through the air with sharp shudders. When you hear it so minimally, though, that affect doesn’t register as it should.