London based producer/songwriter Rubik is also known as Shaun Yule, founder of the exploratory, left-field imprint Domestic Records. Responsible for the discovery of esteemed success AxxoN N, as well as releases by the likes of Atki2, Gnaw Their Tongues and Mink Freud, he set up the label in 2007 as a way to fulfill his experimental passions without limitation. Rubik’s new album Tone Poem is his fourth album, and the 19th release on the label.
Partly inspired by Alex Ross’ ‘The Rest Is Noise’, Tone Poem is a menagerie of samples accumulated by a deterministically random process – an exploration into the landscape of late nineteenth and twentieth century classical music via a cathartic endeavor to compose his own personal opera.
Expressing method in perceptible madness, Rubik has long been compelled to make an album as a product of almost entirely stochastic processes. After deciding on a stylistic theme he sourced the backing tracks from a selection of 10 classical CDs from his personal collection. Assigning numerical values to specific elements of these works, he picked numbers from a bowl to determine sample length; the point in time from which the sample was taken; and CD/disc/track number sampled from, etc. All samples of a certain length would be used on the same track and thus a tempo derived. Notes were then manipulated within the samples for a more expressive and ‘musical’ result and additional instruments and solos were ‘bent’ to fit the backing track in the same way.
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Initially the lyrics were meant to be sourced in a similar way, particularly via love letters. As the project progressed he used less of this in order to write from the heart, with the odd phrase taken from existing poetry or lyrics. Although he’d admit to struggling with vocal limitations Rubik embraces them for what they are and even employs them almost New-Romantically to articulate the sometimes difficult and personal nature of the album.
Lyrical themes include religion, aging, paternal relationships, death/transcendence, acceptance of self, break-up(s), masculinity (and lack of perceived ideal), alcoholism, change.. Applied to musical influences including various classical genres, pantomime, experimental music, noise, black metal, grime and torch songs, Tone Poem might be considered to be part of a group including Dean Blunt’s ‘The Redeemer’, or James Ferraro’s ‘NYC, Hell 3am’ – conceptually and thematically linked yet dissonant portraits of flux.
The melodic, albeit slightly off-kilter, classical overtones provide some semblance of alleviation for any challenging listening, as if Billie Holiday’s ‘Lady In Satin’ had been warped in dystopia. Consider Rubik a more mortal David Sylvian or Krzysztof Penderecki, a twisted Sondheim, or merely a contemporary of L.Pierre or Hype Williams. And consider Tone Poem a nightmarish Disney production telling of one man’s everyday existence in Tottenham.
1. Come In
5. Sweet Nothings
7. Mirror Museum
9. Shadows of Apple Blossoms
11. Half Widow
12. True & Eternal Bliss