Tod Dockstader was born in 1932 in St. Paul, Minnesota and after started out studying art and psychology in college, only to find work in Hollywood cutting animated pictures and audio. In the late 50s, he moved to New York and his work as an early electronic pioneer began in earnest. In the early 60s, he released a series of works that were comprised of radical re-constructiona and manipulation of audio fragments, and with his work eventually became known as a groundbreaker in the area of musique concrete and electronic music (appearing on the celebrated OHM boxset alongside John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and others).
Aerial #2 is his newest work, and it's the middle section in a lengthy three-part series of releases based around the sounds of shortwave radio. Around the beginning of the century, Dockstader finally joined the computer-based musician world and started selecting and editing pieces from a massive grouping of almost 600 that he had created. The final result is the fifty-nine song, three-part Aerial series, which literally fills three CDs with two hundred and forty minutes of music.
I have to admit that I've not heard the first part of the series, but based on Aerial #2, I imagine that if one were to put all three releases on back-to-back (to back) and try to absorb them all, it might result in some sort of a mental breakdown. This release is filled with some of the most eerie, haunting pieces of sound that I've heard since I started tripping my way through the Conet box set. "Approach" opens the disc with overlapping layers of cold drones before "Omaggio A Fellini" drops off into a weird world that sounds like filtered insect song while "Pipes" could very well be pipe organ tones squelched and bled off all heart, leaving them as whispy ghosts that dance like smoke from a popping fuse.
The listening doesn't get any easier from there out, as "Babbel" finds multiple layers of inhuman chatter blurring together into some unholy wash while "Clocking" is a creaking, groaning track that sounds like it could have arrived straight off Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume 2. Although the release is cut up into over twenty tracks, it actually feels like longer movements that are separate by name alone. The beginning of the album mingles a lot with filtered chatter noises that are somewhat disconcerting while just after the halfway point, the disc makes a precipitous drop into deep drones that seem to work a little bit better (while still keeping some identity amongst themselves). Towards the end, the weird between-station blips and scatters again make an appearence, and by that time their slightly more frenetic sounds actually feel welcome after the journey downward.
As you can probably guess from the above statements, this probably won't be your cup of tea if you don't enjoy listening to somewhat disconcerting electronic dronework. At eighty minutes, Aerial #2 is definitely somewhat of a chore to listen to, especially if you're not in the right state of mind. Even when the longer "Knock" arrives towards the end with the off-kilter rhythmic pulses, it feels like a last gasp on a somewhat stifling release. Fans of Dockstader and musique concrete in general will want to scoop this up along with the other two entries in the series (that slide into a nice cardboard slipcase), but others may find themselves a bit overwhelmed (which is probably part of the point).