Off Ramp Title: Off Chance Label: Ramp Records

Excellent industrialesque improvised music from a bay area trio featuring some highly processed violin and cello, and Tom Nunn's home-built instruments, which are essentially masses of different types of metal rods that protrude antenna-like from a board or plate which has a pick-up on it. I tend to call these things "bugs" for short i. Nunn plucks, bangs and bows at these rods, producing a variety of sounds, from tapping noises to sounds like gongs or marimba. Doug Carroll's "deconstructed" Cello, and the energetic violin of Jim Hearon are not to be sneered at, either. ii

My favorite tracks are: 1, 5, 10 and 12

But there are no bad tracks. Be careful about accidentally dialing up a "snippet" that's less than a minute long, though: 8, 11, 2, 6. iii

1 6:58 Oyster of Aphrodite - A really beautiful effective piece, shows-off Offramp at their best. Quick violin licks, deep echoy bug tones, some indescribable warped-Cello. Stands up to the best you'll hear from groups like Voice of Eye or even Mandible Chatter.
2 0:09 Snippet One - a glissendo played on a bug.
3 6:23 Language of Fish - Starts with rapid stacatto tapping, then strings come in on top. Later, rapid high violin licks on top of the gong like Bug. A nicely lush sounding piece: gets around to different sounds, but sustains the same feel throughout, and keeps it moving. Fast, slightly angular iv in places.
4 2:56 Vault of the Undone - Slow spooky echoy tones, with delicate insect-like buzzing over the top. Some cello licks that would not be out of place in the sound-track to an early slasher-flick.
5 5:15 If Then City - A nice, spacey beginning... some string noodling... Very sparse and delicate in places. Some Therimen-like licks. Builds to some really strange jamming; a rapid, pulsing sound; and back to the sparse sound for the finish.
6 0:11 Snippet Two - fade-in and out on some fast bug plucking
7 10:56 Untitled Afterthoughts - Long howling tones, with some crunchy bug-work underneath. Some really spooky spacey sounds in the middle. Suddenly louder deep, echoy, loud stuff at around 4 mins and counting (I like this stuff, but it does have a kind of sci-fi cheese edge to it).
8 0:11 Snippet Three - Quick, complicated bug snippet.
9 9:23 Cum Loude - Gradually fills in with some sounds almost like water dripping. Alternates loud/noisy with sparse/spacey sections. (in fact, this is the best track for serious noise).
10 5:11 Gyration/Extension - Long spacey tones Has a classic electronic/experimental sound like flipped notes with tape echo. Some really neat long slow sparse stuff in the middle. Builds to a nice dramatic industrial finish.
11 0:07 Snippet Four - Roooaawn. Bump-bum-bump
12 8:03 Live at the Coco Club - Beautiful, fast, filled-in sound. Leads with fast violin licks, over a rapid gong-like melody on the bug, and some deeper electronicy groaning which believe it or not is probably "cello". Then the cello-noise takes over, and we shift into some sci-fi tones, then a slow, quiet monotonous pulsing and then the bug scampers in sounding a lot like an actual bug trying to escape a plastic milk bottle. In general, this is the best track for the sounds of industrial civilization collapsing under a horde of invading insects. A mosquito like buzzing joins the jam, up to the abrupt ending: "bing-bing".

Footnote - i
In the liner notes, Nunn calls them "Electroacoustic Percussion Boards" and "Space-plates". And really, "the bug" is just one of them, there's also a "Crustacean" and a "Crab" here.

Tom Waits commissioned Tom Nunn to build one for him, and most of the people in the audience who have seen one played have probably seen them on stage with Waits.

Footnote - ii
Doug Carroll and Tom Nunn are also members of the group Rotodoti, whose CD is in the library.

Footnote - iii
Do you realize that CD-3 has a "repeat" mode that you can use to turn a ten second track into an infinite loop?

Footnote - iv
I use my own subjective impression of what sounds angular. See Klee for a technical definition.