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From The Wire, November 2004

THE BEIGE CHANNEL
PLAIN VANILLA
HAPPY NEW YEAR CD

BY MIA CLARKE

As co-producer of last year’s excellent acoustic guitar anthology, Tensile
(Labile CD-R), New York composer Michael V. Farley brought together
a group of international guitarists who were interested in confronting
traditional notions about the instrument, employing computer processing,
tape loops and effects to dissolve the boundaries between the original
acoustic source and the outcome, so that it was often impossible to
decipher any guitar sound at all.

Farley sets himself a similar challenge with his solo project, The Beige Channel.
Using eight cuts taken from a selection of secondhand 1950’s mood music
LPs, he digitizes specific sections of the standard arrangements – such as a
connecting phrase between verses, or a transitional moment between
chord changes – and uses the sampled result to create entirely new pieces.
By focusing intensely on these small segments of sound, he creates a
fascinating collage of repetitive grooves and unidentifiable reverberating noise.

As Farley chose not to clean up his vinyl sources prior to sampling, he retains
all the hisses and pops that are part of the records’ particular
histories. Thus scratches that would no doubt be viewed by the records’
previous owners as faults now form the basis of Plain Vanilla’s most
unusual sense of movement. The effect is hypnotic; as thought a needle
has become perpetually locked in a dusty vinyl furrow and allowed to
create its own peculiar rhythm.

The disc’s eight tracks bear little resemblance to the tempos and predictable
structures of the records that inspired them. By picking up on the most minor
components of his source, bypassing main riffs and vocals in
favour of singular notes, Farley has created an absorbing experiment.