WTF?! Wednesdays: Mystery Bear, “Epicycle” (2013)

MysteryBear1

People who have a rigid conception of what music is (read: chords, harmony, melody) are often surprised to learn that musical inspiration can materialize from very unlikely sources: the screech of brakes in the subway; the sound of a rock tumbling off the side of a hiking trail; the insistent, overlapped pulsation of spring peeper frogs. The true skeptic would probably insist that none of that is (or can be) music, looking down their nose at the lack of tonal center and traditional harmonic structure.

The music of Mystery Bear (one Mr. Dave Seidel) is anything but traditional. On “Epicycle,” a kind of process music constructed from various drone sources, the waves create a sonic architecture that resonate with both beauty and foreboding. How does he do it? In his own words:

…realtime improvisations using various analog devices in a feedback-based configuration, played with two infrared motion controllers. Treated by convolving with the sound of a decommissioned nuclear reactor hall in Sweden.

A decommissioned nuclear reactor hall? In Sweden? Apparently, he’s not kidding. It’s somewhat amazing to me that these places even exist, but it’s inspiring to know that there are minds out there who can put them to a different kind of use.

What follows is over 12 minutes of intense and shattering sound. I’m reminded of an email conversion I once had with a big fan of electronic music. He said that he had the world’s largest collection of music that sounded “like refrigerator compressors.” Both of us thought that was a good thing.



“Epicycle” is from Mystery Bear’s latest release A Quiet Sun, which can be downloaded from the Vuzh Music Website.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

2 Comments

  1. JC Mosquito JC Mosquito says:

    There should be a comparison between this piece and Metal Machine Music. Interestingly enough, Mystery Bear’s Epicycle drones around F# (approx. 93 Hz), whereas MMM doesn’t focus around…… anything.

    That Lou – always 100 steps ahead of everybody (except for that Metallica business).

  2. JC — I usually tune to 60Hz, but a feedback setup like this is not really tunable in any precise way, so I just let it fly. Thanks for the comment! Flattered at the comparison to MMM.

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