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Topics - Joe LP

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If you were to be  exiled to a desert island and, as an Austere fan, were allowed to bring with you only one work by the ambient master duo, you could hardly do better than choose "The Sound of Silence I" box set.

Commemorating the group's 10th anniversary in 2008, TSOS1 is designed as a standalone "music kit" showcasing the astonishing breadth, vitality, and  creativity of Austere's ouevre in their first decade of existence. The box set is subtitled "An Unnatural History of Rare and Orphaned Tracks"; still, it contains more than three hours of aural inventions that strongly evoke the spirit of the group's more well known released work--from their inimitable etheric floating atmospheres to "psybient" to dark esoteric  drones and ambient rock.

The box set is both sonic euphoria and beautiful, nostalgic, design. It consists mainly of  a 500 Mb San Disk (flash memory card) containing the rare/orphaned tracks in 320 Kbps mp3 format, an mp3 player and usb cable, a 3" and a standard cd rom disk (for the mp3 player drivers) featuring Zen-inspired artwork, a copy of the Austere manifesto and proof of authenticity, and a mysterious set of randomly-selected photos of the band members. As a work of art, this assemblage works wonderfully well--if you've seen Joseph Cornell's surrealist boxes in an art museum, you'll get an idea of TSOS1's effect on your Uncollective Unconscious. (And if TSOS1 one day gains a spot in some museum of contemporary art, I will not be surprised.)
Although the included mp3 player is serviceable, you will certainly want high-quality equipment to do the musick some justice.  I recommend transferring the tracks to a hi-fi device and listening to them from there while visually and tactilely savoring your prized Austere box (a unique one among a limited edition of 50).

The tracks are divided semi-thematically into folders, for example:
1. Drone Download Project - Austere's contributions to Stephen Phillips' Drone Download Project; fantastic drifting drones for unforgettable waking dreams.
2. Live - Contains the single track "Shadoworld", a unique and luscious psybient piece, apparently in praise of the "Shadow" superhero of 1930's popular fiction.
3. Compilations - material previously released in compilation albums; some highlights are the incomparably satisfying floating track "The Cuce" and the unforgettable "Big Bang Into Particle Acceleration", a triumph of sonic stimulation.
4. Unreleased - some of these unreleased but well-crafted tracks seem to be takes on material from the albums "Mirror" and "Fade".

In conclusion, the unique box set TSOS1 shows that much of Austere's best work remains "rare" or "orphaned".  Yet while this is an unfortunate state of affairs, it is more than compensated for by the heightened pleasure and appreciation of the group's genius among the magic box's lucky owners.

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