Agitated Atmosphere: Ben Vida/Keith Fullerton Whitman – “AggregatePulseRipper (Damaged III)” b/w “080114”

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 Ben Vida and Keith Fullerton Whitman.

Neither Ben Vida nor Keith Fullerton Whitman are strangers to readers of this column. But if you didn’t take a chance on either before, it may be too late.

This serves notice, however, that’s never too late — just a different time to drop in. Vida and KFW have both been dabbling in more melodic approaches of late, so the twosome’s entry into Amish RecordsRequired Wreckers series is devolution from the pop sensibilities both have showcased recently.

Of course, Vida and KFW’s work is also an evolution in synthesizer. So often synth has become fodder from re-imagined sounds from the 70s and 80s. In the hands of Vida and KFW, the instrument becomes sentient, trading in melody for gargled noise — words spoken from the technology itself; wisdom given in the digital age.

Vida take the whole of Side A with the sparse “AggregatePulseRipper (Damaged III),” a lengthy piece far removed from the modern fusion work of his recent Bird Show Band incarnation. The composition is an amalgamation of synth droplets, hitting the lacquer as it spins elegantly on the turntable. Vida deconstructs synthesizer into recognizable sounds, eschewing traditional pattern for true syncopation. It’s zeros and ones rapidly filling up motherboards in an effort to fill in the empty spaces of broken information. Like data processing, Vida’s playing speeds and slows like a machine locked in problem solving, quickly accessing particular information as concrete solutions are slower to develop. The lag in your digital television feed or internet video is the only comparison to Vida’s parabola sound.

Whitman’s approach is far dirtier and angrier. “080114” is a mixture of digital and analog synth, the edge-of-the-seat soundtrack to a truly futuristic vision (none of this bland 80s idealism of Blade Runner). The pitter patter of synthesized rhythm lends “080114” the frenzied foot of the chase; the keys buzzing with the electricity of a thousand neon signs as KFW’s protagonist runs for his life. “080114” is more than some celestial codename, it’s the number Big Brother has branded on our freedom fighter, the pace quickening with our pulse.

Though not as accessible as their recent work, ignoring the chilled experimentation of Ben Vida and Keith Fullerton Whitman’s split is to ignore history. We do that so often as a society, why not heed the warnings and give due to where we’ve been and where these two visionaries believe we are going.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He also pens Deserted for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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