The Humble Seaman – 120 5×5

Craig Tattersall and Bill Seaman describe their new project as “a structured collaboration.” Over a three-week schedule, each worked separately on five pieces of music. One per day, Monday to Friday. They agreed to limit each piece to five minutes, and no more than five parts.

After a weekend’s rest, they sent one another their songs. The same Monday-to-Friday schedule followed; this time Tattersall and Seaman added to one another’s work. They agreed to a maximum five new layers of sound. And again, one piece per day.

Week three was spent mixing and applying finishing touches.

You might expect that a process focused primarily on addition (or as the album’s title portrays it, multiplication) would produce a somewhat cluttered recording. 120 5×5 is not that at all. It isn’t quite minimalist, and yet throughout its 46 minutes the project retains an unanticipated lightness.

“We did indeed have 10 tracks on each song,” says Tattersall. Not what I expected to hear when I shared my assumption that they’d taken a more sparse approach. “[I] played harmonium, clarinet, guitar(s), synth and of course tape loops. Bill played piano, DX7, non-location recordings, Ableton abstractions, time dilation fragments and a sampled string library.”

The work is comparable to Tattersall’s remarkable 2019 collaboration with Offthesky, All Other Voices Gone, Only Yours Remains. (More recently, the two produced We Were the Hum of Dreams in 2020.) Each comes at you from that same ill-defined near-future place where neither instruments nor recording devices work the way they were intended. We find beauty in this music because it says something important about our world and its direction. These recordings are exquisitely detailed – in ways that continue to reinvent the electronic music aesthetic.

This is not the first time Tattersall and Seaman have partnered. Previously, we knew them as The Seaman And The Tattered Sail.

Seaman has a long resume dating back to 1978. His website describes Seaman’s work as a study of “the combination and recombination of media elements and processes in interactive and generative works of art.” He’s also taken on “a transdisciplinary search engine related to Neosentience,” described as “the future of AI and robotics.” The project goes by the provocative name The Insight Engine.

Besides his work with Seaman and Offthesky, Tattersall was a member of The Remote Viewer, Famous Boyfriend and The Boats. He has a dozen recordings out as The Humble Bee.

Kevin Press

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