When is a beat not a beat? Can arrythmia be rhythmic too? Why are some sounds elevated to the higher realm of “music” while others remain base “noise”? ‘Reveal and Rise’ by Brutter (the sibling duo of Christian Wallumrød and Fredrik Wallumrød) presents us with a witty, playful and continually diverting sonic text that raises all sorts of questions about music and how we listen to it. As a kind of anti-techno, it also challenges what the theorist Theodor Adorno called, with reference to the commercial swing or dance music he took for jazz, “the undisputed predominance of the beat”.
By liberating the organisation and repetition of sounds from the dictatorship of any consistent musical measure, and by extending the range of permissible instruments or noises to include whatever they like, Brutter have created their own twisted brand of avant-garde electronica. Here, perhaps, all notes are equal. It’s also a world where the distressed sound of Eighties drum-machine disco hand-claps shares the sound-stage with the air-pressure squirts and jack-hammer thumps of what might be ambient noise from a loading bay or light engineering workshop.
What on the surface appears to be a rather cerebral deconstruction can also turn out to function subliminally as the kind of thing it’s supposed to be deconstructing; becoming, as it were, a sort of slowed-down and de-natured form of industrial funk. The weirdly disjunctive, unconventional rhythms invite disjunctive movement too, and could be used very effectively as the soundtrack to a contemporary dance piece, or a filmic update to the famous machine-rhythms of ‘Ballet Mecanique’, co-directed by Fernand Leger with music by George Antheil.
The opening track, ‘Easier Listening’, sets the scene. An almost reggae-like groove - part electronic rimshot and kick-drum, part industrial piledriver and life-support bleep, perhaps - develops a rich organic life of its own over the 2 minutes and 46 seconds of its brief life-span. In one sense, nothing - or nearly nothing - happens. In another, there’s a universe in its grain of sand. And so it goes on, each track revealing more and more information with each subsequent listen.
For all its seeming randomness, music like this doesn’t just happen. What might seem on the surface like chance events are actually compositional strategies (even when they are also, at least partly, chance events too). We have to credit the broad range of experience in the varied careers of Christian Wallumrød (born 1971) and Fredrik Wallumrød (born 1973) as both composers and instrumentalists (in other lives Christian is a pianist; Fredrik a drummer; both have long and impressive discographies). They take joint credit for all of the contents of ‘Reveal and Rise’, co-composing and playing drum machines, synths and electronics. It’s also necessary to register the very important contributions made by Helge Sten, who mastered the album, and Johnny Skulleberg and Stig Gunnar Ringen who made the initial recordings, with Skulleberg also mixing all tracks. Together, they form the anti-techno production team.