Metrognomon – 1995

VEDA (2)Metrognomon claims to be the first concept album of the series, or perhaps it is more accurate to say that it claims to be the first album conceived as a single unit. The sleeve notes explain that it is “an urban song cycle and as such may complement noise found in metropolitan areas”. Furthermore, I explain that “this recording may be played at any speed in any direction whilst remaining in essence the same music” because “relative distance of oscillations is more important than accurate reproduction of original frequencies”. This extreme modal attitude is perhaps unrealistic given the technology available to most listeners at the time, but at least suggests an emerging attitude towards sound as gestalt.

Once again the brand name shifted, here from VEDiC to VEDA, Vitreous Enamel Development Authority. I don’t remember exactly why, the abbreviation was perhaps more pleasing to my comparative religion scholar aesthetic at the time. The title on the cover appears as VEDA – Metrognomon – VEDiC at Four Station DeLongii and then over the fold EC v8.0.

The conceit of concept album, with regards to Metrognomon, mostly holds together in a number of tracks with titles that signpost their common theme: Metro A, Gnomon (Metro), Trogno (Memon), Metro B and Metrognomon. Of these, Metro A & B introduce the Metrognomon leitmotif in sketch form, while Gnomon (Metro) and Trogno (Memon) have no obvious musical relation to this theme.

Gnomon (Metro) is singular in that it deploys a 5/4 meter, as far as I can recall this played out using a grid of twenty so that counter-rhythms of four and five could grind against each other. This is mostly sequenced using a K1 connected via midi to the Amiga running MED, accompanied by a downshifted vocal intoning “gnomon” between a squall of sampled noises that suggest urban noise and car crashes. Trogno (Memon) is a loping bass-driven track which exploits the portamento fireworks of the K1, it is competent but only relevant to the Metrognomon theme tangentially, if at all.

Metrognomon itself is based upon a simple major key piano ostinato, with some sequenced electronics and vaporous guitar textures gliding over the top. The word “metrognomon” is pronounced by an Amiga speech synthesizer, which also says the words “voe” and “ev heg”. Voe was a reference to Sullom Voe in Shetland which was in the centre of an Ordnance Survey map that I found around the time and “ev heg” was a chant from a short story by M John Harrison. It all works fairly well together, although some slack rhythmic playing occasionally lets it down.

platcom copyApart from these tracks most of the rest of the album is made up of extended post-rock instrumentals; Planerunner 94 in particular referring back to a series of pieces going back to the v3.0 album and making the claim that the Entropy Circus had ever ended increasingly tenuous. Amongst the other tracks, Fruhstuck makes an appealing play on the pastoral ends of the Kraftwerk spectrum, Lateral attempts a full-on untheorised atonalism and Mass Pile dives deep into found samples over a drone. To what extent this grab bag can be called a concept album largely depends on the audiences perception of the frame.

Framing was something that I was interested in at the time. If you put a frame around anything it acts as an authority which claims that everything within it is intentional. In a way just to say that anything is an album rather than a set of tracks placed in sequence is a framing device. The sleeve here acts as an adhesive to hold these tracks and ideas together: a fold of heavy paper with dot matrix print on it, and then a second fold with sleeve notes demanding a conceptual underpinning. The artist has the authority to say what is and isn’t an album, whether a track is complete or incomplete, and the rhetoric of the title and the cover art act as a frame to stop it from drifting into its component parts.

v8.0 was the last album of the series to be mastered to analogue cassette. v9.0 would be about transcendence on many levels.

v8.0 can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Monorail.