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Review

Bruce Gilbert

In Esse

Mute Records is known for combining pop, experimentation and artistic freedom. Bruce Gilbert is an artist that likes to experiment, who has been involved in both pop and intricate instrumental work, and who has a penchant for odd/archaic titling. These are great pedigrees, so why In Esse was made available for public consumption is anyone's guess.

Even with the most avant-garde experimentation there should always be something to grasp, some modicum of composition and, dare I say it, sometimes even something resembling musical familiarity. In Esse is alien to all of these things and whereas that proves exciting on some of Gilbert's other albums where it is used sparingly, here it sounds like an accident. And when I say 'it', I mean the whole album. The whole thing sounds likes a big mistake was made when the record was mastered—like someone tuned into some random static on long-wave radio and thought 'sod it, that'll do'. All three pieces are essentially guitar static, radio static, or a less than enthralling combination of the two.

To give you an idea what you're up against, the first piece—Soli—lasts an ear-bashing 45 minutes. 16 minutes pass before anything remotely interesting happens—some sort of distorted guitar rises through the static; nothing that can be called a tune, but something that might pass for composition. After half an hour we hear a slight distorted voice under the chaos. And those are the highlights. Bassi and Muzi—the other two tracks—are a little better, if only because they are shorter.

In Esse simply proves the age-old argument that noise in itself does not make a good listening experience, even if it is fun to create. However, composed noise can be interesting—witness Dome or much of Gilbert's other work. I suppose that if unstructured noise and ear-wrenching distorted static is your thing then you certainly get your money's worth with In Esse. But those of you with a bit more sense will find they can have a lot more fun de-tuning a radio, which is a lot cheaper and can last as long as you want it to (or as little, as the case will almost certainly be).

Craig Grannell (March, 2000)

Cover artwork