In Excelsis

Mike Dickson

This album is not musical in the strict way in which the preceding recordings are. The sounds captured here encompass what can be discerned as music, but are impressed within a matrix of sounds, voices, fleeting glimpses, whispered words and half-remembered dreams. Words and sounds flit in from one source and disappear before their meaning can be discerned. Snatches of echoed melody can be made out in the distance. You think you see something. You try to focus on it. It is gone before you even know it was really there.

Bookended by a brace of medieval tunes, the album takes you through the strange world we encounter when we close our eyes and imagine we are somewhere else. Maybe somewhere we remember from our past. Maybe nowhere we recognise. Maybe nowhere we can possibly recognise. As ever, I'm not about to explain the music here or even to attempt to describe the places it inhabits, but I will say that there is little true musical structure to be found in here. Instead of dwelling in the tied-down world of ABACAB these tunes tend towards ABCDEFGHIJKL... and so on. This 'structureless structure' has always fascinated me and doesn't seem to exist in enough places, or at least not in enough places that hold any interest for me. The first place I ever heard it was in the music of Stravinsky. Then it appeared in the music of The Incredible String Band. Sometimes themes return in disguised form. Some motifs repeat from one track to another. Sometimes a whole line is replayed in a slightly different manner, but the overall act is one of constant progression. Whether the progression leads anywhere that you want to follow it is a matter of taste.

In the first Systems Theory recording we deliberately set out to make music that would create visual impressions on your mind, hence the title Soundtracks for Imaginary Movies. This is more like a series of soundtracks for the nagging little nightmares that creep out in the dark when you are least expecting them.

A link to my page on Last FM can be found here. Irritatingly, Last FM appear to have disabled the 'embedded play' function which was featured on this web site for the preceding albums, so the links are to the complete MP3 files. A playlist for Winamp can be found here which will play all the files directly from Last FM. I'm led to believe that dragging and dropping this file into iTunes will copy across all the files as well. Someone let me know if this is the case.

A full ISO of the CD is not available as the tracks can be burned to CD one after the other without spaces. However, those of you with access to CD Architect can find a layout file for the CD here. A PDF version of the album artwork can be downloaded from here and a Microsoft Word version of the artwork is available here.

Comments and criticisms are more than welcome!

Mike Dickson, Edinburgh, September 2008