Nerve Net Noise: Meteor Circuit (2002)

This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word. 

No two ways about it, you’re either going to love Meteor Circuit or think it’s the most annoying con-job going in electronica. Nerve Net Noise, a Japanese duo, take homemade oscillators and basically let them play themselves. They claim to be going for the middle ground between planned and unplanned, suggesting that there’s a kind of life created here. Then again, their liner notes also make links between the creation of the world and their music, in a display of whimsy that elsewhere would annoy, but here appears to fit entirely with the project: machines playing themselves, humans acting merely as scribes.

As for the tunes? They’re surprisingly evocative. No shreds of unnecessary noise, the world of chirping and bleeping sounds very much like it was created with corks and bottles — there’s a distinctly real-world feel that’s at odds with the oscillator-born nature of the enterprise.

The songs themselves are difficult to pin down. “#1” sounds very much like what would happen if someone deflated a balloon in the world of Tron. “#2” suggests that the duo took the flesh of Mr Oizo’s “Flat Beat” and metalworked it,Tetsuo-style. The pulsing — an odd cross between dancefloor bassline, race-car engine and the “Caution! Reversing!” beeps that trucks make — increases and fluctuates with the sound of acceleration, before reaching what sounds like a heartbeat, interspersed with the sound of a cardiac arrest warning.

“#3” is best described as being an accurate recording of the sort of drama that invariably unfolds in the apartment upstairs when you go to bed: it sounds like a small creature playing table-tennis with itself — running across the room, hitting a ball with a Pong-esque “chock” and then running back across the room to do the same again.

Imagine someone trying to remove a cork from a bottle, a fraction at a time. For nine minutes. That’s “#4”. Simple, and you’d imagine grating, but strangely the interest is held. Indeed, a palpable sense of tension is created throughout the track, eased only when the music fades.

The most ambitious track on the disc, “#5”, sounds to me like a day-in-the-life of a bird-soldier. The sound of marching, interspersed with what I’d imagine a feathered drill-sergeant sounds like, fills up half the track, until the dentist’s drill sound of snoring comes in at the nine-minute point. From then on? Slight oscillations that sound like the shifts of a feathered sleeper. All this from some little chirpy box? You betcha.

The album closes with perhaps the most human track of all, “Long Mail To Boston”. It sounds, for the most part, like modem noise, but it’s precisely this that makes it appealing. The randomness of sound is, like in the rest of the album’s tracks, combed by the listener for meaning, for clues as to what it’s all about. There may be none, none at all — this may be nothing but noise that has, through chance, turned into something amazingly listenable — but the connection that’s made here is as real and as true as any fist-pumping rock I’ve ever heard. Defining this is nigh-on impossible, but the feeling of something behind the music is too strong to deny.

If you’ve got the tolerance and don’t mind people asking you why you’ve got a recording of a car-alarm, then Nerve Net Noise’s work is for you. For all the technology involved, there’s an immensely satisfying human feel to the tunes here — more so than in a lot of other electronic releases. No MIDI, no chopping, no bullshit: this is the real deal.

First published on Splendidezine in August 2002. I still listen to this album (and this band) and love ’em as much as I did when I first heard them. I think this is the first review I ever had quality feedback for – I can’t remember who told me, but apparently the review convinced some people to buy the disc purely on my thoughts alone, so I like to think my mission was accomplished. 

The album is still available – I urge you to buy a digital copy through the source at the top of the review. The label, Intransitive, was one of my favourites. 

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