Suum Cuique Suum CuiqueAscetic Ideals
Sometimes it is hard to follow Miles Whittaker’s multifaceted and at times excessive career. Although he is now enjoying a success that was hard to come by - thanks to being the more electronic, skilful half of Demdike Stare - the Manchester musician has not given up on keeping other of his previous projects alive. Although the majority of them are on hold or abandoned (I’m thinking of Pendle Coven, his IDM facet, for which there is still no hope of reanimation; as well as MLZ, his escape valve for producing techno abounding with echoes, which he still doesn’t seem up to going back to), considering his current recognition it seems logical that Whittaker would take up his solo experimental project again, Suum Cuique. He has already released a first album under this alias on Young Americans, a subsidiary label of Modern Love dedicated to analogue textures and 60s and 70s proto-electronic (which has managed to rescue the work of pioneer Daphne Oram) as well as releasing a very limited edition recording of “Midden” (which seemed to be a reissue of laboratory electro-acoustic work by a student of Stockhausen).
In reality, “Midden” was Whittaker’s rehearsal for going into areas that one could sense in Demdike Stare, but which the duo’s aesthetic didn’t allow him to take advantage of entirely: drones, abundant layers of noise and static sounds, manipulation of tapes and old modular synthesizers. If Demdike Stare is his derivation towards old soundtracks and a terrifying vision of the pastoral, Suum Cuique is his entry into the academy and the discourse of contemporary music, without being filtered or watered down. “Midden” had a limited scope, of course - only 400 copies were pressed - but among the wide collection of Miles Whittaker’s titles, it holds a special place for its oddity, daring, and good final result. Two years later, the project is starting up again with a second record, this time for Modern Love – a brand name that has more pull than Young Americans, obviously. It increases the result on all fronts: eight pieces with spectral evolutions and a run of 700 copies on LP, plus a digital edition so that anyone who wants can download it. What is not there is anything too surprising: Miles follows the line marked in “Midden” and refines it, aligning himself with a very long tradition of experimental music – one that goes from Pauline Oliveros to Eleh, past and present of the most radical drone. Furthermore, a line that stretches from the first industrial music of Throbbing Gristle to the post-isolationist school of Thomas Köner - that strips the electronic language of any extra element (melody, rhythm, harmony) to make it a cold sequence of almost invariable noise. It’s a frosty modulation with the occasional static pulse or rise and fall in volume, not much more. As we were saying, it is a long tradition of which Whittaker is an applied student.
The presence of Modern Love’s logo can be misleading. You might expect some concession to the new screwed and chopped techno of Andy Stott, the occasional dub digression, or even a certain plasticity within the ample margins of the esoteric and horror (like on “Triptych” or “Elemental” by Demdike Stare). However Suum Cuique’s work – the name is an expression in Latin that is translated as “to each his own” – is heard as an alienating experience, without concessions to any “light” expectation the public may have. Perhaps it shares with Demdike Stare a moment of imitation of certain passages of library music for terror films (the last song, “Dionysus Decay”), but that is only a benign conclusion for an entire album that gives no respite. It has more to do with the material pressed at Editions Mego – from Daniel Menche to KTL – than with the wild post-techno of Modern Love. It’s not suited to everyone’s taste, but “Ascetic Ideals” is a dish that any lover of unbound experimentation must try.