You can purchase phyical copies of this cassette release from the Ka-Rye-Eye label at: tictail.com/kretapes/arvo-zylo-sequencer-works-volume-three-pro-cassette
Worshipping the Glitch: Arvo Zylo’s Sequencer Works
This is the final volume in a trilogy of “Sequencer Works” by Arvo Zylo, which together highlight a prolific early period in his work centered around composing exclusively with a late-90s Yamaha RM1x. This tape focuses heavily on the earliest of Zylo’s sequencer efforts, predating the most of the material found in the first two volumes, and several later pieces are included that represent the approximate end of the era, providing a context for his most fully-realized sequencer-based album, “333.”
Initially asked to take on programming for an industrial band, the earliest pieces are “experimental music” in the proverbial sense. You’ll hear “Fuckmata,” a short bit of Ministry’s “Stigmata” riff, at the beginning of this volume. Not content to turn out the kinds of straightforward beats and riffs his machine was designed to fabricate, Zylo was instead compelled to layer parts and textures into vertically-dizzying arrangements. Many of these pieces brush up against the sequencer’s limitations of polyphony and frequency reproduction, resulting in malfunctions and glitches that become integral parts of the work.
These pieces have often been discussed in terms of limitations, as they test the borders of their genesis “in the machine,” but I think the real story here is one of bounty. Glitches in this music are intentionally generated, and as Zylo becomes more adept with the sequencer, I am reminded of the “third mind” appearing in the collaborations of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. An unseen collaborator is summoned when Arvo pushes beyond expected narratives into the heart of Control. Much of Zylo’s present-day solo work continues to employ the layering strategies developed through these sequencer pieces. Although recording software is more accommodating than sequencers when forced to press mountains of samples into new forms, addition and subtraction frequencies continue to arise in these complex pieces.
Volume 3 features early pieces like “G.Z.” and “Burn It,” made of increasingly distorted layers, insistent percussion, and the kind of motivic development that makes these Sequencer Works increasingly impactful over time. A missing piece of the “333” recording, an early introductory piece called “331,” proves to be a perfectly-paced introduction to the full aural oblivion of its parent. And there are several pieces with approaches not found elsewhere in the series, such as the pointillistic fragments of “Crash Bang” that uniquely contextualize more martial rhythmic tendencies, or the delicate, almost ambient accompaniment to Atalee Judy’s vocals on “Mention This.” And while much of this music aspires to transcend the notion of “the machine,” a few pieces like “Machine A1” and “A2” fully embrace the idea of mechanistic motion and carefully calibrated precision.
While many of his musical activities have embraced collaboration, these sequencer works delineate the hermetic origins of Zylo’s approach. Viewed through the distance of time, these pieces vibrate with ritualistic significance, each riff a sort of sigil, broader compositions meticulously weaved together in states of inspired insomnia that must be the urban equivalent of vision quests. While these pieces stand on their own, together they form an active narrative of self-reliance and focus that is ever more important in a passive era of followers, memes, and likes.