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The new studio full-length from Microstoria finds digital collaborators Jan St Werner and Markus Popp in more of a talkative mood. Their previous releases helped pave the way for the minimal, glitch craze in a more contemplative, almost silent way. Model 3, Step 2 has a more expressive feel to it, some tracks actually jumping out at you like "Fakeshift" with its deep chords and rolling sounds of sequences that jarringly get "ripped" away from the sound spectrum and skip around feverishly. There are quite a few inward moments on this however, but those tracks never seem to fade into the ether or fall into a simple, ambient mood. Both artists keep their digital sounds moving around, reminding me of the scene in Star Wars inside the Jawa's sandcrawler. The talking droids bleep and bloop, filling the air with various vocal tonalities that are unique to each, but in combination with the others they create the impression of a digital conversation.

Their U.S. label Thrill Jockey promotes this release by stating the artists empathy with free-jazz musicians and their ability to explore and exploit sonic possibilities utilizing a wide-ranging tonal pallette. This rings true as St Werner and Popp have documented their ability to do this in a live performance setting with their last full-length "Improvisors". Their press release also states that they create sounds together, thus the ability to improvise and combine similar sounds in an effective way.

Nonetheless, being more than just creators of chin-scratching moods, the Microstoria project has never been completely devoid of melody or soul. The opening track "Me-Too-Modula" sparkles with digital trumpet sounds that squeak out triumphant blasts. The following track "Glocky Bit" has a jazzy element to it in that the tonal sounds they each create sort of resonate together, but they also sound like they are singing too. The improvised laptop collaboration is nothing new anymore, and calling it jazz may be a stretch, but Microstoria music expresses a unique combination of tonality and abstraction that creates an almost indescribable mood. One that's not as "cold" as one might expect from digital processing. Model 3, Step 2 may not be as minimal or as calming as previous efforts, but their music floats from the speakers just as delicately and effortlessly as always.

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[email protected] | January 2001 | Issue 10