RedRedRed's Pattern Completion Conjures Industrial Dystopia Out of Vintage Synths
In the late '70s and early '80s, San Francisco groups like Tuxedomoon and the Residents created futuristic music with analog synthesizers and drum machines. Their damaged swathes of electronics felt like some impending technocratic dystopia, where machines rule over hopelessly indoctrinated human beings. Under the moniker RedRedRed, local artist Michael Wood uses the now-vintage gear of first-wave industrial music to startlingly similar effect on his debut EP, Pattern Completion.
Wood appreciates that addition and subtraction of sound are essential tools for the synth soloist. His setup doesn't allow pop conventions like stringing together totally dissimilar parts, nor the intuitive nuances of an ensemble. Instead, Wood propels his songs by demanding a pulse from the machines, layering sounds, and then peeling them back "Contract/Dream" stacks treated rhythm box patterns and quivering synth until distorted percussion lurches to the fore, but Wood halts the marching machinery just in time for vocals.
He utters sharp commands, as if mimicking the treated drum machine patterns or communicating to machines in their own language. That's the paradox of industrial: to warn of a futuristic nightmare where we're senseless automatons, artists creatively mimic how humans might sound while oppressed under technocratic rule. Maybe industrial music in 2013 should be created with apps.
Despite the surface artificiality of electronics, Wood's nebulous meshwork of damaged sound doses these tracks with a somewhat organic feel. The synths on "Enforcer" are like broken sirens. Murky effects on "Ego Manifest" sound like a factory uprooted and tossed into the ocean -- cogs slogged by seaweed and scrunching to a halt underwater. Pattern Completion is an impeccably produced recording, but Wood coaxes out the imperfections of analog gear. It gives RedRedRed a human element -- as if implying that human unpredictability and error will deter the onslaught of technological regimentation.
REDREDRED performs Monday, Sept. 23, at the Knockout, with Azar Swan, Delphic Oracle, Opulence, and DJ Sir Hether Fortune.