How deep is the ocean, asks the now-standard tune’s lyrics throughout this half-hour sonic extravaganza. The answer: As deep as the titlewave of sonic signifiers bouncing off the walls of composer Eliot Britton’s diverse, inclusive and warped imagination.
To suggest that Metatron is plunderphonic at its heart is to suggest that Bach and Webern both employed counterpoint, which is to miss the point almost entirely. Reflecting on the piece as a time warp akin to the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 is also something approaching an injustice. Both are true and false, as music can present the simultaneities toward which speech struggles. Aided by the empathetically excellent work of Architek Percussion, Britton offers a series of quantum leaps through the development of technology, its attendant audio history and many of the signifiers therein as viewed through a 21st century lens.
The results are miraculous. The deeper you dive, the more you find, and the more you’ve been listening, the greater the rewards. From the radical percussion works of Varese to the bleeps, brips and braps of early 1980s video games, from Whispering Jack Smith to those ambient tintinnabulations of middle 1970s ECM discs, from swinging Ella Fitzgerald to Blue Skies as it might be heard on the Minus label, all is referenced for listener gratification. If it were that simple, the piece might fail; there is a narrative, a beautifully touching and often laugh-out-loud meta-story of how development and recurrence partner on some vast cosmic dancefloor, converging and diverging in spirals of heartfelt reminiscence. If that weren’t enough, the piece begins and ends in C, more or less. How’s that for convention?
Again, were the recording not absolutely spectacular, those retro-washes of synth magic, the sudden gear-shifts and the constant illusions to old and beloved pop tunes would be lost in the fray. They aren’t, and it is to the credit of all involved that this is one of the most extraordinary, confrontational and often gorgeous trips through timbral history that I’ve encountered.