Listening Center – Example One (reissue)

Listening Center – Example One (reissue)

Originally released on cassette via the This Is Care Of label way back in 2012 and subsequently only available as a download via Bandcamp, London’s intrepid Polytechnic Youth imprint now belatedly issues Listening Center’s debut long-player on vinyl for the very first time.  More than just a discography-tidying-up exercise, this carefully curated corporeal reappearance of Example One is instructive in illuminating the more stylistically divergent and less self-restrictive beginnings of David Mason’s much-admired and highly-collectible one-man retro-futuristic instrumental project.

So whereas the likes of 2014’s lustrous Cycles/Other Phenomena LP and last year’s meticulous Then It Was Now lathe-cut 7” were primarily the product of heavily-mirroring Mason’s live-performance set-up – centred around synths, sequencers and drum machines – Example One is a looser yet more textured studio-centric construct.  Built-up layer-by-layer, with live drums/percussion, bass guitar, rudimentary organs and tape manipulations added to the aforementioned latter-day instrumentation configuration, the album has a contrasting yet complementary character compared to the rest of the Listening Center canon.

Whilst Example One is a greater patchwork-quilt of formative ideas than the more seamless recent Listening Center works, it still packs in a slew of nuggets amongst a handful of feet-finders.  So although there are a few moments that are embryonic ideas in search of greater focus (specifically the burbling tape loops and found sounds of “Hydro Electricity”, the obscured vocoder-voiced repetitions of “Portable Electronic Musical Instrument” and the jazz-meets-analogue-glitchtronica of “Catherine B. Playalong”) there are others that find Mason hitting solidly rich sonic seams.

Hence, “Town Of Tomorrow” exudes liquid space-funk warmth akin to late-‘70s Can; “Periodical” glides along like a wordless euphoric homage to both early-OMD and Kraftwerk’s Radio-Activity; the utterly gorgeous standout “Main Reading Room” channels the electro-acoustic balm of Phelan Sheppard’s Harps Old Master LP; the fidgety minimal-wave prowling of “A State Of Tomorrow” channels the primordial outings of The Human League with added spoken-word vocal samples; the languid cinematic “New Narratives” recalls The Noise Made By People-era Broadcast; and the elegant gleaming “Solaroid” anticipates the more settled sleekness of Cycles/Other Phenomena, albeit with more organic drum tracks.

Taken as a whole, Example One is an intriguing and inventive inaugural prospectus well worth revisiting in its new vinyl incarnation.  Hopefully, this reissue will also give David Mason a few reminders of passing ideas and angles that could be re-explored and extended upon across future Listening Center wares.

Polytechnic Youth