In ‘Voice Job’, Phil Julian ransacks the memory banks of a run-down Yamaha TQ5 FM MIDI expander, extracting a selection of mangled sonic detritus with which to tickle our jaded palettes. The TQ5 is a bit of an outlier in the world of electronic music – a quirky, keyboardless synth, launched at the end of the 1980s to home users, that never really caught on, perhaps because you needed an existing MIDI rig to plug it into. But consumerism’s losses are the experimental computer musician’s gain. Julian salvages all sorts of punchy, granular debris from his broken-down kit, whose memory cells had run out of juice and corrupted its in-built voices. The TQ5 came furnished with 100 of those muckers and ‘Voice Job’ presents all of them, many in the form in which they were fished out of their deactivated home, some with added processing to ensure maximum bonkers noise.
Although Julian’s not letting on which of the voices he’s tweaked, it doesn’t really matter. They all sound pretty gangrenous, whether spitting electrical venom like a short-circuiting robosnake (‘dGONserT_’), seeping out in monochrome clouds of nanoparticles (‘4r_n__f’), or just glowering grumpily in space like some super-dense lump of anti-matter (‘050’). Of course, the fact that some of these recall the grey, planar surfaces of Julian’s recent ‘Relay’ (see, for example ‘086’), the chunky barfs of 2017’s ‘Clastics’ (get your lugs around ‘gLTVwhtaC’ ) or the noisy squalls of his Cheapmachines days (get you over to ‘PFARM_L’) must surely be coincidental. But I can imagine how Julian’s brain must have lit up when he first encountered all this mess. It’s right up his strasse, after all.
If the thought of a hundred-odd tracks of computer noise is enough to trigger traumatic memories of the last time you sat through a four-hour Morton Feldman marathon, have no fear. Few of these pieces break the two-minute mark, allowing for plenty of comfort breaks, should you require them, during the listening experience. And the composite nature of ‘Voice Job’ means that one can approach it in several ways. A straightforward run-through is a bit like experiencing a meteorite shower from within a domed city. Each individual impact is different, but the cumulative effect is rather bracing. A shuffle approach, with deep-dives into the track list at random, offers more agency – something akin to wandering through a museum and browsing its strange, wrecked exhibits, in the manner of a ruin-intoxicated flâneur. But, rest assured, whatever mode of consumption you choose, ‘Voice Job’ will give you plenty to chew on.