Displacer
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Displacer

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
EDM Industrial

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"DISPLACER, “FOUNDATION”"

As has been pointed out by countless record critics before me, it’s hard to see where the “intelligent” part of “intelligent dance music” comes into the picture. Much like jazz (the other notorious form of “smart people’s music“), the suggestion is that if you like IDM it’s because you’re a staggering genius of superlative taste and critical pedigree, and if you don’t it’s because you’re just too dumb to get it. To my mind, Displacer’s Michael Morton bucks the whole IDM problem somewhat, because the sort of technoid, industrial-rooted IDM he makes abandons impenetrable polyrhythms and complex granular programming to focus on emotion and texture. It’s not smart music (which is not to suggest that it’s dumb either), it’s thoughtful music, and that distinction is abundantly clear on his new release Foundation, his first for Hymen after a few multi-album tours of duty on M-Tronic and Tympanik. Like all his records it speaks to a desire to render feeling from an inherently cold and mechanical form of music, and like those records again, does so by virtue of its delicate touch and eye towards the experience it provides the listener.

All of that brings us to one of the most important things about Displacer’s work, that the focus is always on a finespun, transparent engagement with the audience. We certainly can’t know what Morton’s process was when recording a song like “The Waiting Place”, but the way in which its rich bassy tones give rise to cloudy synths that eventually resolve into string-like pads are too careful to be coincidental, but not so showy as to spoil the immersion. Similarly, the rhythmic shift mid-album signaled by the straight kick-snare pattern on “Firebug” is executed subtly enough that it’s almost imperceptible unless you’re actively listening for it; by the time you notice the album’s emphasis on tempo has changed up you’ll be halfway through the dubby “Distress Call” and on your way towards the slow-build climax of “Warbound”. The route also herds you through the terse and rubbery “Outland” and the *ahem* ghostly whispers of “Ghosts pt. 2?, but the pace is fairly unrushed and the scenery involving.

Perhaps an inevitable result of the emphasis on keeping things understated is that Foundation never reaches out to grab the ear of the listener. Unlike say, Beefcake (a band who’s influence on much of Displacer’s catalogue is palpable), there’s never any attempt to snap you out of the trance it lulls you into with a blast of sound or sudden left turn. Even “Spare Parts”‘ flirtations with putting a chattery rhythm out in front of the slabs of composed sound have a reserved quality to them, and when things go full-on ambient with the final song “Leviathan” the tenor remains the same as everything that preceded it. That’s a contextual issue more than anything else, and if we measure the success of an album by how interesting it is (which I do, with actual listenability coming a fairly close second) rather than how many times it made us jump out of our seats via some unexpected twist, Foundation does well. It’s a good record by a great talent, and one that underscores the value of attentiveness and warmth as a creative ends.

Buy it. - I Die, You Die


"Displacer :: Foundation (Hymen)"

I’ll step forward right now—a slight bias towards Michael Morton’s Displacer alias is ever present as you read these words. Without delving too far into Displacer’s recent history, it is safe to say he’s continued to expand upon chilled post-industrial trip hop iterations and has been featured on two heavyweight imprints such as M-Tronic and Tympanik Audio over the past decade. With 2011's Night Gallery (Tympanik Audio) the “post-industrial insignia associated with Displacer is stripped away in place of a more plasmic flow of evolved production skills.” This is the case on his latest album signed to Germany’s highly-regarded Hymen Records. With Foundation being his eight offering for fellow inhabitants of this circular cosmic spot, how has the artist pushed forward—if at all—with Foundation?

Perhaps the most accomplished album to date, Foundation is an apt title that digs several feet below the surface to inspect the infrastructure of Displacer’s sound collage. A mixture of solids, liquids and opaque gases, each piece rattles effortlessly as a series of ingredients melt together in a fuzzy subatomic layer. Submerging ambience, rugged beats and smoldering bass, Foundation peals yet another layer of Displacer’s inspiring audio-visual skills.

Opening with the bass-infused buzz of “Dark Star,” perhaps an ode to the classic film, the analog machinery is all tuned and ready for subsequent light rays of its adjacent audio entities. “Totality,” “Distress Call,” “Space Parts,” and “Outland”—which appeared on Tympanik Audio’s Emerging Organisms Volume 4 in 2011—are the crowning achievements. Each piece contains the splintered strands of Displacer’s DNA. Thick patches of percussion, rolling low-end rumblings and an industrial backbone has these tracks in fluid motion and flowing emotion. The twin peaks of “Ghosts Part 1?—a silent moving, invisible ambient piece—is offset with its “Part 2? counterpart displaying a droning guitar thread of stargazed lushness. These two pieces as well as the marching dynamics of “Moonrise,” the dub-techno thump of “Firebug,” to the brooding undercurrent of “Warbound” could perhaps ignite future album themes as they segue into shifting genres on Foundation.

But just as you begin to wrap your head and ears around the push-pull effect of Foundation‘s sonic pallet, “We’ll Watch It Burn” hints at a more relaxed shoegazed effort as does the closing atmospheric fog of “Leviathan.” Sandwiched inside these waves of mild turbulence you’ll find that “Red Sky” takes a simmering approach to the downbeat landscape—lightly weaving calmed percussion and emanating like the Casino Vs Japan’s classic Go Hawaii from a decade ago—its pseudo-Hawaiian rhythm burst is both enlightening and entrancing.

If the above-mentioned bias derails your intentions to snap up this gem, then I’m glad you read this entire review as Foundation is really stands on its own whether or not you’re familiar with Displacer’s body of work. - Igloo Magazine


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Displacer is the solo electronic project of Toronto, Ontario-based musician Michael Morton. He had his start on Mute Records’ Pre-Set New Electronic Music (2003). Selected from the best demos received during that year, the track “Deep” garnished the attention of Paris, France-based M-Tronic Records, on which he released 3 CDs. In 2008 he signed to Chicago, USA label Tympanik Audio and released 3 more albums; 'The Witching Hour', 'X Was Never Like This...' & 'Night Gallery'. In 2012 look out for his new album 'Foundation' on Hymen Records.
In addition to his own music, Displacer has remixed the likes of Claire Voyant, Architect, Converter, Beefcake & Monstrum Sepsis amongst many others from labels including Hymen Records, Ant-Zen, n5MD, Wax Trax, & Metropolis Records.

Also, Michael has commissioned the aid of experimental artist/developer Hugh Elliott to create a live visual presentation to compliment the experience.

Hugh Elliott

With 12 years of experience in development for web, mobile and live presentations, Hugh was more than happy to get involved with Displacer. With a conscious choice to work with Processing, Hugh created a visual display that reacts directly to Displacer’s music in a live setting. Using TouchOSC and running a socket server, there were infinite options to change what the audience saw on screen. The Minim library, specifically FFT, in Processing was used to provide the sound wavelength values and was then translated into a variety of shapes and connections through code.

http://www.blog.wheniwas19.com/