(A Closer Listen) How much fun is Erin Demastes having? For Thing Music, The LA-based artist arranged objects by color, then recorded them. Her obsessive-compulsive technique has a simple appeal that makes us want to try it at home. The irony of these abstractions is that they sometimes seem to have no rhyme or reason, while they not only have rhyme and reason, but phylum and genus. A musical mind is behind the synesthesia. “Pink” may not sound pink at first, with all the crankings and rustlings, but then the rubber bands come into play, eventually dominating the sound field. Now one starts to think of pink rubber bands, how they might be used and who might use them. In a section of her website, the artist sells boxes of multicolored rubber bands, as well as a Slinky box, bead box, noise maze and button. There’s no denying that she goes all out. Other characters include “a milk crate, a plastic record player, wind-up toys, a large metal spring, cellophane, styrofoam, mini Solo cups and a hose wheel.” The track develops a percussive repetition and ends in cacophony. “Orange” is more toylike, as the sound of a “bouncy ball” sparks intimations of childhood. We see the trick-or-treat pumpkin on the cover, astride a toy xylophone. Something like a choo-choo train traverses the speakers. Compact and dronelike, the piece is the natural first single. Not since Taw’s Truce Terms have we heard a piece so playful. Orange you glad we didn’t say “banana?” Of course we didn’t; bananas are yellow. How many yellow things do we have in our homes? If yours is like mine, the answer is “not many.” The primary category is likely garden implements, and “Yellow” has an outdoor feel, like rakes and buckets not being used for their primary purposes, the crinkling of yellow boots, a reluctant gardener puttering around, avoiding work. Erin seems to be singing a bit as well. Is she yellow? In her photos, she’s blond; good enough. By “Green,” we encounter strange mechanical sounds, which seem intimidating until the traffic section of toy cars, whistles and harmonicas. As toddlers say, “Again! Again!” The longest track, “Blue,” is the closest to accessible, due to its repeated, tempo driven base. A cashew can and portable fan provide the hints. Matmos comes to mind, as recent albums have centered around plastic objects and a washing machine. “Purple” confounds the ear, as it’s so hard to think of purple things that are not plush. Marbles? Onions? Plastic Barney? At least we’re confident in assigning the Solo cup to “Red,” although it’s a surprise to hear something like a gong: a “real” musical instrument among the improvised. What started as a seemingly random exercise has gained order along the way. By the end, one sees the method in the madness, the composer in the chaos, the tidying of musical notes that mimics the color assignments. These “things” have personalities to spare. - Richard Allen
(Wire) Unsettled and uneasy, Thing Music gnaws at its audience, an anti-music clot-clog so palpably physical you can almost hold it as you hear it. Los Angeles’s Erin Demastes omposed using objects including bouncy balls, mini Solo cups and a large metal spring. Despite being broken up into seven tracks named after colours, the recording – which put me in mind of Nautical Almanac’s Rooting For The Microbes – is best heard as a whole unit, a living, breathing Rube Goldberg machine determined to subdue and assimilate every sentient being who encounters it. Resistance is futile. - Raymond Cummings
(Yeah I Know It Sucks) Oh the pretty colours, who doesn’t love or at least doesn’t adore them? There are so many colours available to stare at and be fascinated by. Luckily Erin Demastes chose the best ones over here and made them all into hearable things that the artist than so kindly recorded for pleasure. And what pleasure it is to not just see colour but also to imagine how it looks like as an sound source. With Pink for example I clearly imagine a crippled strange formed shape that is made out of all kind of forms. Something to really bend your mind on and be bewildered by. Of course these forms are painted in different shades of pink teints, but the strange object is of the most intriguing kind in audio form. It clearly is being semi rolled and tossed over the floor while an inner squeek pulls it’s strings like a heartbeat in its inner core. The pink over here is not round even though the artist tries to roll it, creating an vibe of ‘what if the wheels are square’ kind of vibe. It made me happy and I think that is a common thing for all Pink exposures! Orange purrs in the world of Erin Demastes like a wild happy cat, maybe even perhaps a lioness, as it sounds kinda big. Even though it’s bigness it seems to wade around with its whiskered whiskers in the pipework behind the kitchen sink. A place where surprised orange frogs and buzzing bright orange bugs flap their tiny wiggly asses in the drain, as if it’s a party for warmth and excitement and our feline character simply does not want to miss out on any of it. Yellow rattles on the ice like . It flushes itseifs down like a fresh coke fountain. It’s all semi attached to a chain that captures a sweet inner voice. If non of this makes any sense to you, you might open up your mind a little wider as apparantly Yellow is more comfortable in complicatedness than you would originally think. Yellow will take a pair of sciccors to make a pretty cut out DIY piece that would even tickle the fancy of a stern art museum visitor. Yellow becomes abstract and gassy, rattling itself like a snake that will lovingly urinate all over your preconceived ideas of what yellow had been about. Green is a favorite of mine, especially the green that Erin Demastes cooks up here as it is a colour of fun. It might sound a bit more distant, but imagine it like some bright green shovels that will dig up a party, full of playgul toots and clown horns. Green is a feast that feels like a birthday of the happily asthmatic kind. Expect no green bogeys here, but lots of joy. The Blue over here rattles around and around. It does this so well that it simply makes my head go in a nice splendid spin. Everything turnd in fascinating circles, it makes blue into a phenomenon close to the feeling of rollerblades around on a turntable. Things are warm and snorting like a excited blue painted piglet that loves to see tape spin. It sure is a thing that you might enjoy. Purple is in the hands of Erin Demastes a bit like drilling a hole with a faithful handdrill in solid hard wood, the kind of material that is simply not made to be penetrated. Things start to be shaken up, brushed like teeth full of purple raisins as other bits and bulbs rattle and wiggle in this colour spectrum. You will never think of purple ever the same again. The same with Red, as red here is like the perfect sound moment of a squeeky bed spring but than underlined for grotesque pleasure. But it doesn’t stop there as Things get more funky and alive, as if the color invited over a great troupe of tapdancers that meet up with micro bugs that learned how to play their own invented horns as they greatly rattle their rattles. Eventually Red becomes the thing of Zen, even though it might be hard to imagine if you read this colorful micro report. In any case, if you feel like expanding your mind and view these colors with a complete different perspective: this is the thing for you! - Kai Nobuko
(Vital Weekly) In the world of Eh?, the cassette division of Public Eyesore, there are lots of improvisers and I had not heard from a lot of these. Erin Demastes is such a person. She studied jazz and piano in New Orleans and now lives in Los Angeles. Her cassette has little to do with jazz or piano and it is all about objects, "found, repurposed, and hacked objects and electronics". The objects are organized by colour, so if you are playing 'blue', then all the objects are blue. This is not something you can hear unless you are proficient in hearing colours. I am sure it looks great in concert. These objects are played by Demastes, and then she recorded various parts of one colour session, sticking and stringing it together on the computer and then creating a mix out of that. Come to think of it, this might not be 'classic' improvised music. The press text says we may hear familiar objects, such as a "milk crate, a plastic record player, rubber bands, bouncy balls, wind-up toys, a large metal spring, cellophane, styrofoam, mini Solo Cups, a hose wheel", but to be honest, I recognized very little of that; nor that I had any idea what I was hearing anyway. Perhaps, I didn't want to think about it too much anyway. You can overthink things, and sometimes it is not necessary to do that at all. I very much enjoyed the seven pieces on this thirty-minute tape. Demastes retains that improvised music feel of it, rummaging through these objects but also adding electronics from circuit bending toys. That adds an electronic/electric layer to the music. That means that this is as much a work of improvisation as it is of musique concrète, even when the use of loops in 'Blue' make it all sound very different from what you might think when hearing the term. The music by Desmastes is quite a fresh look at such boundaries, and she isn't afraid to just do whatever she thinks is right. And I can't blame her for doing, as it brings us great music. - Frans de Waard
(Sands-Zine) Questa giovanissima autrice americana sembra destinata a un luminoso futuro. Lo fa pensare, oltre alla qualità delle sue proposte, uno spirito d’iniziativa al di sopra della media. Basta entrare nel suo sito per scoprire una bottega d’arte di delizievole artigianeria. Cambiate poi quadro e passate a You Tube dove sui piccoli oggetti posizionati nel desco la casualità e gli interventi dell’artista si spartiscono in equa misura la responsabilità nell’organizzazione dei suoni. Cambiate di nuovo quadro collocandovi su Bandcamp dove è possibile ascoltare per intero i sette brani della cassetta, brani le cui sequenze sonore sono state associate ad altrettanti spettri di colore con una sensibilità tipicamente femminile. In Erin Demastes la propensione all’intonazione dei rumori, prettamente futurista, si sposa con un’attitudine artigianale alla Harry Partch e con un ingegneria proto-meccanica che fa pensare a Pierre Bastien. Composto, registrato, mixato e masterizzato da lei stessa nel suo studio domestico. Se questo non è DIY. - Mario Biserni
(Perfect Circuit Bandcamp Picks) The music of Erin Demastes is hidden in every single object around us—no thing is deemed unmusical, and every thing has a great sonic potential. While the terms like composer, improviser, instrument builder, and sound artist certainly apply to Demastes, she is in a wider sense a relentless explorer, and the world is her sonic playground. Random objects that are often dismissed in our everyday life (or at best are mundanely used for their intended purpose) are re-contextualized in Erin's work, becoming idiosyncratic musical instruments of her one-woman band. Condensing such a diverse palette of sounds into a song or even a record is not an easy task, but Erin has a master plan. Her latest record, Thing Music presents several years of research on the sonic properties of different materials. All objects are organized by colors into seven tracks: Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, and Red. Although the color-sound relationship here is not per-se synesthetic, however it is absolutely permitted to feel as if "it is all yellow" (sorry Coldplay) past the tenth minute, as well as slightly emotional, and maybe just a little bit blue when the fifth track of the album starts playing. As a whole, Thing Music evokes a feeling of journeying through a post-industrial magic forest full of unknown creatures of varied forms and sizes, bizarre plant life, bubbly swamps and waterfalls, mangroves and meadows. Ultimately Thing Music is about play, and not only in the sense of Desmastes having lots of fun making noises with found objects (although she certainly does), but also as in a play of imagination, and creativity in general. You probably won't find songs that you can sing to on this album, but it is certainly a wonderful work to send you off into a dreamworld. Have fun!
(Kathodik) Da Los Angeles la compositrice e performer Erin Demastes lavora attorno ai materiali e alla loro percezione. “Thing Music” è oggetti trovati e trattati. Riorganizzati, grazie ad un sogno sognato, in colori. Concreta concretissima, fra raschiamenti, tambureggiamenti, soffi sfiatati, cigolamenti e ruote in ruoto. Una buona fetta del ciarpame di scarto che ci circonda ben ispezionato. Fuori dallo sganghero noise, senza mai perder di vista quel che chiamerei azzardando, buonumore - Marco Carcasi
(Sound Projector) Recent cassette tape from Bryan Day’s EH? Aural Repository is Thing Music (EH? 116), created by Erin Demastes in Los Angeles. She makes her sounds from commonplace discarded objects, thereby fitting in to this label’s aesthetic in quite a big way – Day is never slow to recognise the achievements of those who make sounds from unusual sources, or build their own instruments, or use hacked / broken electronics. In the case of Demastes, she likes to organise her collection of useful junk by its colour, so we have seven tracks here titled ‘Pink’, ‘Orange’ ‘Yellow’, etc. depending on which particular pile she turned to for inspiration. As expected, plastic and metal seem to be the main components in play, but she also does a little bit of hacking and live electronics too, and I think her own voice appears as she muses along in harmony with her distinctive creations. Overdubs and repetitions are allowed, unless I miss my guess, meaning that the listener doesn’t end up faced with an unappetising morass of inert, lifeless, static noise; rather, the friendly junkpile of Erin Demastes appears to be teeming with life in the most unexpected places. Her success might have something to do with her sense of humour and absurdity in her approach, both qualities which I welcome, and that she genuinely seems to be exploring; “Why did I make this? Your guess is as good as mine,” is her disarming confession. Another sound artist who has made a career out of repurposing objects is Guido Huebner / DSM, but his work is rather solemn and grey compared to this pop-art, colourful material; and Guido also seems to be on a mission to question the purpose of everything in the world, starting with the broken vacuum cleaner and (by extension) the broken politics of society. No such intellectual baggage to process on today’s tape, thankfully. - Ed Pinsent