Guy Birkin – Symmetry-Breaking (Runningonair Music)


Guy Birkin - Symmetry-Breaking (Runningonair Music)

A dear friend of mine who works as a microbiologist is often disillusioned by the strain of balancing the demands of his academic lot with any life away from the lab; he shoehorns in stolen hours of music criticism between the petri dishes and lab animals, hoping one day to find a balance between his passion for art and his head for science. Maybe I should point him towards Guy Birkin’ Symmetry-Breaking. Birkin posits an alternative musical universe to the cryptic synth manipulations of Marcus Schmikler and Florian Hecker that maintains an inherent musicality mostly lacking from such heady climes.

“Fourier-Gabor’ and its inverse “Gabor-Fourier’ remind me of Spacemen 3′ “Ecstasy Symphony’ retooled, slimmed down in the lab and mixed with some Mille Plateaux style digital trickery. The rich tones and ghostly, granular synthesis derived overtones of “Bass Drone 6c’ are both intensely visceral and, accompanied by the liner notes outlining the process that the wonderfully warm sounds are derived from, educational too. The sweet, simple and poignant melody of “Bass Loop 3b’ is augmented by percussion consisting of sine waves and filtered noise; this is music made for a space station, composed by a low-gravity Cocteau Twins enveloped in the digital aesthetic of the City Centre Offices label.

An abiding fondness for Arvo Pärt (something that should be applauded) informs both the gloriously delicate and deliciously flawed juvenilia of “Mirror in the Mirror’ and the Autechre-like sweeps of sound and melody that make up “Bramble’. The results of submitting Arvo Pärt to Fourier analysis are much warmer than the process suggests. I find it immensely gratifying and somewhat relieving to hear that music made by rigorous scientific and mathematical procedures can be so convivial and inviting. Apart from the glistening blue ice tones of “Ice Cloud Nine’ and “Ice Cloud Ten’, which remind me of the tuning fork pieces of Warren Burt, most sounds are warm and succulent, like Tortoise with a PhD in complexity theory, or a grant-funded Phonophani jamming with Biosphere.

The full release of Symmetry-Breaking is a two-disc affair, with a unique almost-doppelgänger of the album with versions off the Bass Drones and Loop tracks specially rendered for each of the 100 discs. This is a compelling idea that ties in well with Birkin’ research into perception and complexity – unfortunately this disc is so exclusive that my promo copy did not receive one. The Runningonair Music label is currently joining the dots between mathematics, science and technology, as they relate to our all-too-flawed human interaction with them, and their intrinsic participation in music. It’s refreshing to hear such source material developed into a compelling and enjoyable album. Rather than poorly paraphrasing Birkin on his research and interests, you can check out his blog here and the Runningonair label also.

Oliver Laing


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Music Obsessive / DJ / Reviewer - I've been on the path of the obsessive ear since forever! Currently based in Perth, you can check out some radio shows I host at