Mark Fell Mark FellMultistability / UL8
Mark Fell has always been interested in software for making music. Both programs for the creation of music (sequencers and rhythm boxes) and those for sound processing (virtual synthesisers, LFO filters and all kinds of effects) are tools he uses to carry out his ideas. Ideas based on philosophical propositions, mathematical occurrences and spatial necessities that present the places where he sets up camp: anything that can have a physical movement (in every sense of the word) can serve as a base for him. It’s a fondness that comes a long way: the project he’s had alongside Mat Steel, SND, for over ten years already, investigates the possibilities of rhythm and the digital creation of sounds. A project which at the end of the nineties and early noughties produced various of the most interesting records in clicks'n'cuts and which even today seems adventurous and radical, although sometimes it’s hard to follow their track. And way before that, when he was still a kid listening to his brother’s records, he had already decided that his thing was synthesisers and electronic music. A time from which he remembers especially the brilliant Celestion UL8 speakers, which made him appreciate the virtues of The Human League, Fad Gadget and Kraftwerk, moving his preferences to the world of electronic music to the detriment of rock and pop, guitars and drums. Shortly after, young Fell borrowed a monophonic synthesiser from a neighbour, got his hands on a second-hand rhythm box and started to make music.
Since those days, those speakers have been the apple of his eye, making him harass his brother for over twenty years until he gave them to him (now they are standing in his living room, and apparently they still sound incredible). And the first thing he did with his amazing acquisition was make a record that in some way recovers those sensations he had as a kid. “UL8” is made with those speakers in mind: as they’re not studio speakers, certain frequency ranges aren’t reproduced, but they do have that warm sound he loves so much. The record is also made using a virtual system that reproduces the conditions of the primitive equipment Fell started out with. Raw and unfriendly, the album reduces rhythms and hums to the minimum expression and organises them according to complex mathematical formulas, thus shaping a sound that is vibrant and wild on the surface, but discovers a strange internal logic. At least until the final piece of the record arrives, “Death Of A Loved One”, dedicated to his uncle who passed away recently, which superposes rhythmic clicks over a base of melancholic synth lines: Mark Fell has never before sounded so accessible.
Almost simultaneously, “Multistability” is released, a much more vibrant and warm record than “UL8”, and also closer to what he does with SND. The basis here is the concept of multistability, which, according to the Gestalt theory, is an effect produced when an observer perceives an object in a stable way in the interior of a system of complex patterns. This, translated to sonic concepts, means that Fell constructs rhythmic patterns in which progression depends, again, on complicated mathematical logarithms. Only here it results in rhythms that seem chaotic, alternating classic drum sounds (the Roland TR707, for example) with synth stabs, and ending up fulfilling Fell’s objective: to reveal mysterious melodic fragments under the intricate surface.
When comparing the two records, we find they have a few ideas in common: the organisation of the music according to patterns subject to continuous mutation, the use of clean sounds, mainly free of effects, and the recovery of such recognisable elements as the Roland rhythm box beat. But beyond those similarities, “UL8” represents the cerebral and focussed Mark Fell: the one who designs sonic installations and buries himself in complicated mathematical formulas. “Multistability”, on the other hand, shows a much more relaxed and comfortable, even fun side of the man. That’s the reason why the latter is accessible for anyone interested in electronic music and with an open mind (in fact, listening to it one your headphones is bliss). And it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the albums is released by Editions Mego and the other by Raster-Noton: after all, both labels know perfectly well what their respective audiences want.
Vidal RomeroMark Fell - Multistability 3