Tabs Out | J. Hamilton Isaacs – Tolerance Clock

J. Hamilton Isaacs – Tolerance Clock

2.19.19 by Tony Lien

Modular compositions built with complex melody in mind are increasingly rare in the experimental electronic world — being that not only is it tempting to just let lawless noise rule the day, but it’s often incredibly difficult to create patches that cooperate on a melodic level. I do not own a modular system myself, so I’m purely basing this off of what I’ve read and what I’ve been told by modular enthusiasts.

Regardless of whether or not you believe this sentiment to be true, the modular music of J. Hamilton Isaacs’ “Tolerance Clock” (available on cassette via Iowa experimental label Warm Gospel) is something to be admired.

Honestly, I think this may be my favorite modular album to date.

The songs build upon themselves from nothing, layer upon layer of arpeggiated bleeps and bloops fitting together in a Tetris-like fashion that almost seems visible if you close your eyes when listening. Interestingly, chopped-up vocal samples occasionally replace more typical modular sounds and lead the compositions into that very particular ‘post-Internet’ territory often championed by Orange Milk Records (see track 3 — especially the last couple of minutes).

Not only do the songs work together to form an almost audiobook-worthy narrative of sorts, but the transitions from section to section within each track create a story-like experience that very much demands the listener’s complete and undivided attention. Such albums that make a person consciously aware of the full effect being lost or disrespected due to a half-hearted listen are pure audio gold — in my humble opinion.

That being said, the amount of work that likely went into these compositions is both dizzying and inspiring — especially considering that these tracks were (I believe) all recorded live. Someday, I plan on venturing into the world of modular. I can only hope to produce something half as hypnotizing and, simply put, cool.

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