SleepResearch_Facility – Dead Weather Machine Re:Heat

Manifold Records (MANCD43), 2004

To call this album pointless noise is accurate on the surface, but it’s also dismissive.  All of SR_F’s albums can be superficially described as such, but the two Dead Weather Machine releases run the closest to satisfying such a claim.  Re:Heat is, basically, a remixed version of the previously released Dead Weather Machine album, both of which feature the noises of Kevin Doherty’s malfunctioning heating fan, but processed, sampled, filtered, and resampled until it sounds completely unlike its source.  While the two albums share an origin, they do sound different, but only the patient and attentive listener will understand this, and these are the same listeners who recognize and understand Doherty’s work to be much, much more than pointless noise.

To describe Re:Heat is to tell only half the story.  The album is a single track lasting exactly fifty-one minutes.  There is no melody and no notes, no obvious sequences or rhythmic elements whatsoever.  This isn’t music in the traditional sense.  What you’ll hear is a series of buzzes, clicks, washes, and hums, all merging with one another, rising and falling in organic waves, part of a single whole; there’s really no other way to distill the experience into words.  But this album, and the SR_F listening experience in general, isn’t about the objective or technical experience; oh no. It’s about what happens between your ears while listening.  The impact will be different for each person, and will likely vary for a single person’s particular state of mind or circumstance.

If, for example, you listen to Re:Heat through headphones, in the dark, with your eyes closed, your imagination may very well latch onto the tapestry of sound and create a fantastic mental voyage through the bowels of some enormous ancient machine, parts of which still spark with vestigial power.  Or you might lose your thread of conscious thought and drift into a state of daydream, floating gently on the back of the gentle sonic blanket.  Or you might sit wide awake and let Doherty work his magic on your ears, opening your awareness to everyday sounds in new ways; in Doherty’s world, every tiny sound holds infinite possibilities, if you only take the time to ponder.  At the risk of sounding pretentious, his project is, in a manner of speaking, an exploration of sonic philosophy.

SleepResearch_Facility is, for me, the ultimate in ambient music.  It’s as dark or light as you want it to be.  It is an interactive experience between Doherty’s manipulation and the listener’s mind; it doesn’t direct the experience for you, but makes you a part of it.  Doherty’s not a musician – or rather, his work as SR_F doesn’t show it if he is – but he’s somehow able to construct his compositions in such a manner as to sink into you, should you be open enough to allow it.  Re:Heat is too varied to be mere white noise; there’s definite change and progression rather than just a wall of static, not to mention the completely alien feel of the sounds themselves.  If Doherty didn’t tell us this album was sourced from his busted heater, we’d be none the wiser.  Where Doherty excels is in his creativity and experimentation, and his ability to mold his processed sounds into an album.  It’s jaw-dropping that he’s done this with a mere field recording of a sputtering appliance; there’s an entire hidden universe in there, and he’s drawn it out for us to consider.

SR_F isn’t for everyone. Re:Heat isn’t for everyone. However, those willing to let themselves drown in this ocean of carefully manipulated sound may find something they never expected.

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