Those who know Tim Story as a craftsman of elegant, understated chamber music for post-moderns may be in for a surprise with his latest release, Buzzle. Those creamy cello lines are in short supply. Orchestral overtones and the trademark piano are similarly rare -- bumped aside by the twitchy beats and organic grooves that propel most of the CD’s 14 tracks. Dive under Buzzle’s surface, though, and you'll find much that's familiar -- and very Tim Story.
Best known for his Grammy-nominated “ambient chamber music”, and for Lunz - his acclaimed collaboration with electronica pioneer Hans-Joachim Roedelius - Story's compositions have an inherently narrative character. The difference in Buzzle is where this narrative unfolds. If Lunz was a trip through the snow-covered Alps, then Buzzle is a rain-soaked ride into a dark city of bright lights and beautiful people who aren't quite as beautiful as they seem. Picture yourself in a post-modern film noir, and Buzzle is the soundtrack you'll have in your head.
Beat-propelled departure that it may be, Story is quick to note that Buzzle is also a very personal record, “filled with references to my musical past and present... While my career has apparently veered onto a different path, Buzzle reflects my deep affection for electronica - in all its old and new incarnations - from the Cluster and Can LP's I grew up with, to Tortoise, Boards of Canada and others. Some of my very earliest experiments in music in the 70’s were rhythm-driven, a kind of ‘proto-electronica’. So Buzzle is the music I might have made if I'd just taken a little detour twentysome years ago.”
Happily, though, Story doesn’t depart on this detour without his musical luggage. His signature use of moody, elusive chord structures, angular melodic phrasing, and masterful sound design are what give Buzzle its spooky and suspenseful, slightly ironic character. Suffuse this with a distinct and subversive sense of humor that manages to find its way into even the most atmospheric and poignant bits. Buzzle is as pithy and elegantly composed as any music Story has ever created, with plenty of treats for those who listen for details.
Atmospheric, enigmatic, programmatic - and above all, eminently listenable -- all that Tim Story devotees love about his work is still here in spades. What's so surprising about Buzzle? Perhaps it's that, in a thoroughly different way, it is just what we've come to expect.
- BIO -
Tim Story, hailed as "a master of electronic chamber music" (CD Review, USA), has received widespread acclaim for his haunting compositions which blend piano and other acoustic instruments with elegant electronics. In addition to his nine solo albums and dozens of compilation appearances on labels including BMG, Sony, EMI, Windham Hill, and others, Story's work has appeared on numerous television and film soundtracks, and was nominated for a Grammy award (for 1988's "Legend of Sleepy Hollow", a children's recording, with Glenn Close), and a NAIRD "Album of the Year" award (for Beguiled). Recent soundtrack work includes the original score for the popular NPR documentary “In Search of Angels” (1994), and “Caravan” (2004) , a feature-length documentary from the production company of award-winning Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar. Notable collaborations include acclaimed CD's with Hans-Joachim Roedelius, the latest of which “Lunz” was named in the year’s “Top 5” by Amazon’s editorial staff.
- Reviews -
Sea of Tranquility
Reviewer: Kerry Leimer
Score: 4 stars
"There's something always alluring and compelling about music that is at once recognizable and at the same time spurns typical forms. Buzzle, a Tim Story project, offers that a glimpse at just such unself-conscious and highly self-confident hybridization. Beautifully languorous, moody, smoky and lush instrumental musics here slip into the ambient, then away to moments of jazzy-bluesy stretches that recall The Cinematic Orchestra and then off again to those oddly assembled then disassembled little settling spots of the fully formed and formless so expertly teased into existence by Brian Eno – once and only once – on the first installment of his Music for Films.
These 14 pieces all possess that combination of gleaming surface, a physically convincing soundstage and the most lovely inner detail. As only one instance, a 'cello passage played by Martha Reikow draws your attention to exactly where it seems it should be when still another what? – string trio? – plays in and out of the gaps, remote and rightly suggesting that other stuff, important stuff, is happening too. Just elsewhere. This sharp but still roving focus is accomplished by Story's compositional skill, one that must be shaped by a frank and open interest in much more than any one aspect of expression. Aided by the percussion work of Louie Simon and Scott Wilkinson – here recalling the remarkably live sound and fluid style of Luke Flowers – and Tom Caulfield's orchestra, Anna and Cara Story's vox and, to top out the ensemble, Hans-Joachim Roedelius' piano contribution on "something happened here (remix)".
Buzzle is a perfect and intriguing union of the electronic and acoustic. Without close study it would be difficult to even vaguely determine just how a particular shimmer of decay came into being: some treated 'cello tails or some virtual synth, or some DAW-originated cross-pollinated jitter. After all, it's a CD of music that lives in the details. And there at least 100,000 or so to consider.”
Reviewer: John Shanahan
Score: 5 stars
“ Tim Story's newest, astonishing compilation of sonic portraits, Buzzle, is unique, complex, soothing, envigorating, and perfectly constructed. It is a mix of downtempo beats and lounge-inspired etherea fleshed out with intriguing electronic treatments. Story has opened the big bag of sounds and pulled out some new, unusual and perfectly effective elements that give Buzzle its incredible depth and character.
"rota" starts the ride by combining a slick groove and striding bass line with a guitar riff that feels like it was lifted straight from a 60's spy movie. Beneath it all is a fuzz-tinged foundation of densely layered sound and percussion. Story's bass playing takes center stage on many of the tracks here, and it's a joy to listen to.
The CD moves into "prelude to biting," a slow, meditative conjunction leading to "decelerate or fasten," which moves back into the lounge feel with a jazzy beat laced around a contemplative melody on cello and piano as smooth as cold silk. "monkey builderizer," aside from having a very cool title, is an indescribable melange of processed sounds wrapped around a funky bass walk. a quiet mantra invoking you to "be a monkey builderizer" slides in like hypnotic suggestion. on "pol teesh" an upbeat, infectious synth melody bops along over electronic bedrock that swells and crackles beneath it. The pace slows with "otherize" and the elegantly moody "dust bale hole," where Story's piano work again takes center stage over film-noir drum brushes, fretless bass accents and subtle electronic punctuation. The bass-driven palate cleanser "cafe kaputt" ushers listeners into the melancholy jazz feel of "the woman singing," a beautiful track that glides on piano and hand percussion. "albacranky" is another brief, elegantly simple bridge, crossing over to the slow groove of "you are patient," where acoustic guitar eases to the forefront, adding texture and grace.
Story then takes "Something Happened Here" from his collaboration with Hans-Joaquim Roedelius, Lunz, and remixes it by blending in the Buzzle sound palette. Electro-buzzes and hard drums dance around the easy piano melody.
And then there's my personal favorite: "yeh!" where thick, grim and fuzzy synth chords shift and slide across a nonsenical-sounding song belted out with pure innocence by daughter Anna Story (with an assist from a bit of sound manipulation), each repetition tagged with a hearty "yeh!" and helped along with more of dad's superb bass work. It's wildly engaging.
Having dissected Buzzle track by track, let me cap this review by saying that I can't stop listening to it. Individually, each song is incredible, full of depth and richness. Together, they are a perfectly constructed suite of eminently listenable music and a seamless, engaging journey. Simply the best CD I've heard in quite some time.
Buzzle is a Hypnagogue Gotta-Get CD!”
Reviewer: Chuck van Zyl
"Tim Story comes from a small town near Toledo. Where the music on Buzzle (51'48") comes from is hard to tell. Nothing at all like the introspective and elegant "Ambient Chamber Music" he is known for, Buzzle plays to the mystery, irony and noir themes of the darkened back room or basement tequila lounge. Much like Story's earlier work with Blue Tofu (and vaguely reminiscent of the esoteric Belgian group Pablo's Eye) this unique and original music transports you to a space where the day becomes erased and you can forget about yourself. The 14 tracks range from strong Dub-inflected jams and whispering Electro-Jazz to surreal dreamlike stillness and tender melodic engagement. With seething brilliance and dark seduction, even the pretty parts have a tough core. This episodic album is wonderfully diverse in its arrangement, full of enticing synth-borne melodies, arcane modulations and shadows of regret. If Story's work is actually a spiritual searching through the medium of music, with Buzzle he has stumbled across more than a few haunted recollections."