Technical Drawings inhabit an under-populated region where the stray currents sparking off from electronica, modern classical and gamelan music meet. Not only a sleepy afternoon class at high school with a crotchety old teacher, Technical Drawings is the duo of Melissa St. Pierre on prepared Electric Piano and Jesse Stiles, who beavered away on Max MSP in a out-of-the-way textile factory, in order to produce this unique-sounding album. Like the organic techno of Reanimator’ Special Powers, or Viennese Duo Rotterdam, The Ruined Map does not easily fit into any category, preferring to carve out its own niche. The albums’ Modus Operandi is set from the opener “Marching Band’; short instrumental numbers full of old car parts, blasted cymbals and malfunctioning camera equipment. These items slowly assemble themselves into an itchy, irreverent vibe that would mix well with the much missed (around these parts, anyways) Stock, Hausen and Walkman.
“Skullflower’ sounds like tropical punks Tetine, if their sole South American influence came from a transplanted steel drum busker in upstate New York (who only listens to Arthur Russell and Prince Jammy). This is lopsided boogie for open-minded dance floors. A gloriously overdriven distorto-funk emerges in the last minute, which could be nudged into epic ten-minute trance shuffle territory; yet it finishes thirty seconds later. A pile-up of Erik Satie, Dan the Automator and the Gamelan Orchestra of the Yogyakarta Royal Palace, “Underwater’ almost sounds as if the Sun City Girls were covering Luc Ferrari. The lone vocal number on The Ruined Map features Todd Jones, an ex-Hardcore Guitarist turned dub concrete Poet. “Strange Flora’ is a beguiling mix between modern urges and ancient spectres – Odysseus, landing parties (replete with weapons) and islands on the edge of the world. “Pacific Coast Highway’ finds the duo heading up the Oregon coast with Sun Araw and Talvin Singh, in a cavalcade of blunted tabla rhythms.
Clocking in at barely over thirty minutes, The Ruined Map doesn’ hang around. Where countless modern musicians push their release durations towards the limits of their chosen format, Technical Drawings inventive use of twinkling textures twinned with experimental pianistic techniques yields appealing results in a diet-sized, barely LP length, portion. Emerging from the textile factory, Stiles is now working as the Music Director for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company; I’d love to see choreography to accompany the itchy junglist rhythm of “Issue project redux’!