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Steve Fisk

OK, it's one thing for a rock artist to begin making music with heavily electronic influences -- or vice versa, if you're Moby. But Steve Fisk's mid-career musical transition makes the mid-career transitions of most artists look inconsequential by comparison. Known for two decades as a heavyweight of the Pacific Northwest indie rock scene as a member of Pell Mell and Pigeonhed and a producer of seminal albums by Beat Happening, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Screaming Trees, The Halo Benders, and others, Steve Fisk has reinvented himself as a creator of squirmy, impossibly weird, ambient experimental music.

This didn't happen overnight, of course. In fact, Fisk's solo debut way back in 1987, 448 Deathless Days on SST Records, demonstrated his penchant for sonic tweaking and musical collage art, though it relied for the most part on traditional rock instrumentation. In '93, he put out Over and Thru the Night on K, a ten-year retrospective of his assorted cassette-only forays into off-kilter cut-up experimentation. So there is precedent for his incredibly freaky 2001 Sub Pop album, 999 Levels of Undo. Stuttering breakbeats wend their way through the album, providing a sort of uneasy spine for the amorphous compositions. There are lots of authentically derived sounds in the mad brew, including vocals by Heather Duby and electric guitar by Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), but these are rendered unrecognizable as such by Fisk's compulsive knob-twiddling and editing. Optigons and mellotrons and Arp organs hum and whine and squeak side by side with backwards tape loops, R2D2-like burps, blips, and bleeps, and scary brainwashed vocal samples. The whole thing feels sort of like a Yves Tanguy painting brought to life and set to music. Confounding and sometimes creepy.

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