[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Ah Maxted. We meet again. They say the third time’s the charm and I’m inclined to agree given what is on “Personal Player”. To prepare for this I have been playing all three albums he’s done back to back for some days now and they are strangely connected. But not by the sounds they exude, more along the lines of feeling. This latest release is easily the most direct and yet there is plenty on it which will drive off those looking for the hook, line and sinker of an easy hit. Quite remarkable given the minimal amount of technology involved in the making of this work, a man and his Moog on the lam could have been the title very easily. Whoever he is, his home must exhibit linearity on a terrifying scale. Everything in it’s proper place, a stitch in time etc etc.
“Lives and Privacy” had a near Soviet bleakness to it, “Momentum” saw isolationism taking o’er the podium and now “Personal Player” exhibits melancholy I never suspected Maxted possessed. His words remain heavily processed and alienist in their view of the world but the music once you get away from the mechanized utilitarianism is quite reflective, delicate even. Rather than becoming formulaic with what he does, Maxted pulls us further into the world he moves through and by the usage of the barest essentials reveals and then revels in the myriad shades of solace grey can provide. Nothing is deliberate nor are any sharp edges employed. This is an ergonomic exercise in electronics, a furnishing for the mind drawn out by the use of character studies carved in sound.
He coaxes what is on here from his machines by deliciously turning the focal point towards what is concealed under the benign surroundings we see in every day life. That there’s a cover of ‘They’re coming to take me away’ is not surprising in the least. I have long held that whoever this guy is (and I have a list of suspects that runs far and wide), he has the ability to somehow switch on and then off the lucidity of his own mind whenever he wishes. What appears drab, maudlin or desolate to you and I is a veritable garden of lush esoteric delights to our man in the shadows. Perhaps he’s that person I always used to see lingering after rush hour ended downtown when the denizens of the city returned to claim what belonged exclusively to them.
Or maybe he’s the fellow I’d spot on the bus mall at 3am pushing his cart mumbling to himself, deeply involved in a conversation I only heard half of because I did not have the ability to perceive who or what was on the other end. But all my ruminations on who he is and why he does what he does must step aside as the music on “Personal Player” is very intricate despite how lo-tech it sounds. A song like ‘Imprint’ moves along at a languid pace, all the while bizarre effects flit about in the background… sequences drift in and out, time begins to conform to the designs of those strangely captivating minimalist exercises (exorcisms?) he has jotted down.
So I guess if I had to term this as anything, I’d use the oft-quoted yet seldom understood term of Outsider music. What’s going on here isn’t the product of camaraderie or community. Insightful songs for individualist people; the symphony of the tower block, infinite connections directed under the watchful eye of one man absorbed by his own mind.
Mr Maxted – Personal Player
Cassette Tape, Digital Release, 2013
Mordant Music, MM065