Xanopticon | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

It's funny, but with several compilation appearances, two 7-inch singles, two 12-inch EPs and two European tours under his belt, it doesn't get any easier to describe the extreme electronic music of Xanopticon (a.k.a. Ryan Friedrich) to the average person. Especially in his home base of Pittsburgh, where certain lunkheads keep insisting on using the catch-all "electronic music" to refer just to deejayed dance-club fare, as if there were nothing else more interesting. Surprise -- there is!


One could say that Xanopticon is an even more complex, brutal version of Venetian Snares and Somatic Responses, but who around here would know what "breakcore" means? Maybe a comparison to the harsher elements of Aphex Twin, Skinny Puppy and techstep drum and bass would ring some bells? Yet that'd still leave neophytes woefully unprepared for the onslaught that is Friedrich's album debut on the German label Hymen -- the "cerebro-tronics" division of Ant-Zen, one of the most respected electronic labels worldwide.


Imagine, if you will, an utterly caustic barrage of irregular rhythms colliding nonstop with your eardrums for more than 40 minutes, punctuated only by brief periods of brooding, alien synths. Not the brainless "douche-douche" of gothy industro-thud or clubby techno, or even the ferocious double-kick blast beats of death metal, but something far beyond and unpredictable, as if a twitching, malfunctioning robot and a machine-gun automaton had an offspring in the Matrix which declared war on all humanity. Such apocalpytics could not emerge in our normal time stream, but must be emanating from some foreboding presence in an alternate dimension.


Whence such insipration? Well, it's clear that Friedrich has been playing his share of video games, watching horror flicks, and probably listening to a cache of extreme music. The meticulous cut-and-paste aspect hearkens back to musique concrete, except that he's pushed this technique almost as far as it can go without the sound becoming one big, undetectable blur. Nonetheless, it hits hard, makes most IDM sound like Celine Dion, and will leave your mind and ears thoroughly exhausted and exhilarated (LP version highly recommended -- take a break between sides).


Taking a ride with Xanopticon means disregarding most safe musical conventions to which most have become so accustomed. The only question is, can you handle it?

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