Jason Lescalleet isn’t musician in the typical sense of the word. Despite releasing a critically acclaimed album in 2012, to some, what Jason does may not even seem like music. He’s an electro-acoustic interference artist, his instruments are recording equipment, and he prefers magnetic tape players. In a genre that is comfortably grass-roots (“instruments” are often “prepared” and compositions are often field recordings) Jason has achieved what could be considered a rock star following among his fans and fellows, even getting his music reviewed on Pitchfork and NPR. He garners strong appreciation for a man who's music is often ambiguously described to as "musique concrete," or "acousmatic," and who’s concerts look more like performance art than a rock show. Perhaps it's because the very first song of Jason's latest album is a noise so overwhelming it's physically trying to sit through at any volume, indeed that's what's most interesting about Jason Lescalleet: he's making an awful lot of noise in a genre notorious (and loved) for being quiescent, and quietly urbane. If there is an album or artist leaning towards punk in the spectrum it's Lescalleet: gloriously noisy, rendering one senseless by beat or beating.
On his latest, a two cd set, he loops tape of field recordings on his favorite reel-to-reel decks, and mixes them with the sounds of interference from various electronic cabinets, piezoelectric mic’d found objects, voice recorders, and record players, sometimes even recording himself in the process of doing so and adding it to the music spontaneously. In a few songs, the screeching pitch of electrical interference is torturous—in others sustained bass rumbles microscopically for minutes at a time, feedback howls throughout the album like the opening of a grunge song, always building to nowhere. Jason’s cover art and song names are a blinding color combination and homage to the Big Black album (Steve Albini) Songs About Fucking. With double entrendre song titles like “The Power Of Pussy” and “The Beauty Of Independent Music”, Jason may or may not be making statements about Big Black, but it’s hard to tell once you’re within earshot, because you’ll either be overwhelmed, or busy investigating his own noise.
For me, the joy of this type of music is both the cleverness in composition and the attempt to understand the creation of the sound (hence: acousmatic). In musique concrete these recordings are typically made and never performed, in electro acoustic interference music recordings typically happen live on prepared electronics. In Jason Lescalleets Songs About Nothing, it’s all of the above, with a near rhythm, and obvious nods to the more melodically inclined of the culture. At times, Songs About Nothing teeters on the edge of bedroom electronic production, yet almost completely ignores the laptop, opting instead for the lowest-of-fi, looping, amplifying, and generally turning the volume up on musique concrete.
Jason denied in his Pitchfork interview that his songs were, in fact, about nothing, and stated that he even became obsessed with creating them. In observing Jason's work one gets the idea that it's not about what he has to say, but what the world around him has to say. This is the untouchable, yet knowable nature of electro-acoustic compositions: a genre absent of human personality, wholly concerned with the personality of inanimate objects, and their waves of sound, that make one's own flaws glare loudly as distortion. What are all the existing sounds around us we're taking for granted? What is the music of these machines? What's their story? Who will record them?
The second CD of the set is titled ROAD TEST, it's a 45-minute song composed of just those kinds of sounds, Jason whips up a transcedental aesthetic that you can't help but get lost in, having the unlikely distinction of being suitable for work, roadtrip, or meditation alike. Electro-acoustic interference music removes the option of presupposing an artist. It allows the listener to strictly investigate a sound; to sniff out it’s source, making one's own ears the final instrument in a participatory composition, and in Lescalleets case, even if you can't be bothered with exactly what they are, you can always enjoy the challenge of enduring them physically.