Reviews » Gaz-eta - reviews by Tom Sekowski

Aerial #2

It would almost be a crime to mention “Aerial # 2” without making mention of its predecessor, so I guess you’ll have to call me a criminal. Tod Dockstader who has been an active member / composer in the radio / tape / experimental music realm for more than three decades has re-awakened all sorts of interests recently. He came back from an extended hibernation recently. The thaw started last year with a duo of releases with David Lee Myers [“Pond” and “Bijou”]. The penultimate vehicle for Tod now is a three CD “Aerial” project, which sees him playing the radio. Playing the what? Playing the radio. You may remember others have done this. Most recently, William Basinski has been very adept at this technique, where radio waves become the sound object. Dockstader is new to the computer as a music-making tool. In fact, it wasn’t until 2001 that he actually bought one, learned an editing program and began to make music. Out of 580 mixes, only 90 made the final cut, thus creating the “Aerial” project. Part two of this project sees a continuous flow of mixes [this being an idea suggested to Tod by David Myers]. No breaks in between the “cuts” means the listener is absorbed with the overall piece as a whole. Eighty minutes later, you’re not sure what it is you just heard but you know it’s something on a grand scale. Was it audio art or radio-flickering? Who cares. Personally, this music speaks volumes. It has this cinematic quality that is not easy to achieve. It speaks of distant lands without saying a word. It caresses and scares. It soothes and it assaults. It’s loving and it’s disturbing. This is precisely what great music should do. Mission accomplished.

Aerial #3

What began as a trio of releases has now come to a natural end. Back in May of last year, composer/radio manipulator Tod Dockstader put out the first of his “Aerial” series. He basically used an editing program on his computer to cut’n’paste various radio experiments he had done over the years. Dockstader admits when he was young people called what he does now “playing the radio”. It’s like using the airwaves as a musical instrument in its own right. Altogether, he made 580 mixes of radio experiments, which he then narrowed down to 90 “best” mixes. Out of those 90, only 59 made the final cut on the “Aerial” project. As with previous “Aerial” instalments, each piece flows smoothly from one to the next [this was something that was suggested to Dockstader by his good friend David Myers]. Problem remains how one goes about describing this music and putting it all into feeble words. Just as loopy and ominous as the previous instalments, this time around the sounds are cave-like. Mix is right up front, though the whole resembles something rather grandiose. I hate to compare these sounds to an orchestra, but fact is, there is something peculiarly orchestral about them. In their calculated calm, in their calculated shroud of mystery and in their calculated mastery, the music speaks volumes. Though Dockstader may have retired, he’s actually making his best music in the autumn of his years. Essential listening!


Sound artist Tod Dockstader has attempted audio movies before. His last outing - 2004’s “Pond” [a duo with David Lee Myers] was a success in its all-encompassing reality. Both artists put us front and centre in the middle of a dark, brooding and mysterious pond, while frogs, crickets and other creatures made spooky sounds. This time around, both Tod and David travel to a dark and equally mysterious world of the southern bijou. You’ll swear you can hear the alligators swimming by as the sounds of water, frogs are prominently featured. What’s more, electroacoustic elements creep in as strange squeaky noises fall in and out of our range of hearing, sampled voices, screams, helicopters flying overhead and gun shots. It’s all fair game in this imaginary soundtrack. I can’t recall anyone else in recent history that was so proficient at creating a world that is as unique as it is bizarre. A word of advice. Many of these sounds are truly spooky, so with Halloween coming up, you’ll want to blast this at top volumes to scare the swarms of trick-or-treaters in front of your house. On the other hand, “Bijou” is equally great listened to on headphones. As you put them on, lie down, take a pill and trade your world for this one.