Agitated Atmosphere: Robert Turman - Chapter Eleven

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Robert Turman.


There are those patrons of the new musical arts who would have you ignorantly believing that the exploration of field recordings, synthesizers, discordant noise, and dissonance is a modern affair. Of course, any music aficionado with a bit of brain power is wise to just how deep the roots of experimental music run. A myriad of small labels have long chronicled these many explorations into the vivid musical imagination and through the power of Hanson Records, we are able to relive the evolving sonic blasts of longtime artist and musician, Robert Turman.

Turman has been cranking out various forms of avant for nearly 40 years, yet Hanson has seen fit to re-release Turman’s 1980s eight cassette opus, Chapter Eleven, for a new audience hungry for plastic rectangles and in-depth experimentation. Despite the hefty amount of music contained on each 30-minute cassette, Chapter Eleven is never weighed down its own introspection. Chronicling Turman’s creation cycle from 1976 – 1987, one never enters into the void of laser prints and hairsprayed pompadours. Turman’s creations are as futuristic and forward-thinking as anything being produced today, which makes the reissue all the more inspirational. As clichéd as it may come across, there is something for anyone who has found something from the growing underground. Turman delves into the many uses of synth (“Codex,” “Los Angeles,” and “Radius” among them), guitar (“Magnetic Pickup” and “Novaya Zemlya”), and the abstract (“Morphine,” “Bright Sky Blue Window,” and the majority of the fourth cassette) without a stumble. Combing through the entirety of the collection would do it little justice. It’s a better world knowing that for a small window in our modern era of expensive gadgets and hectic lifestyles that the simplicity of cassette and the unexplored expanses of our imagination can be found within Robert Turman’s Chapter Eleven.

Listen to “Codex”:

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Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist who also runs the webzine, Electronic Voice Phenomenon. He writes the Monday News Mash-Up for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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