Best known for their collaborations as City Frequencies, Melbourne-based duo Matt Adair and Nick Wilson work together on sound projects in the context of metropolitan environments. While they originally created their Random Acts Of Elevator Music project more than a decade ago as a guerilla performance duo that involved sneaking into inner city office buildings and playing impromptu elevator gigs before being asked to leave the premises (more on this later), it’s only just now that they’ve finally gotten around to releasing their debut self-titled album.
As track titles like ‘Spreadsheet Dreams’ and ‘Waiting In The Foyer’ suggest, the thematic focus here is on the office environment, with Adair and Wilson describing the music here as muzaktronica conveying the social and psychological landscape of the modern metropolitan work environment. Constructed around beatless landscapes and minimalist synth arrangements, the nine tracks collected on this album sit closer to ambient / IDM more than anything else, and despite the office setting they often come across more like deserted landscapes curiously devoid of any obvious human presence.
Despite the acompanying bio’s flirtations with corporate motivational tools and talk of productivity, this is a collection that while certainly relaxing and serene, often doesn’t carry any obviously uplifting vibe. Originally dating back to just over a decade ago, ‘Waiting In The Foyer’ sees distantly pulsing bleeps giving way to icy ambient pads and glitchy digital processing, the buzzing digital artefacts almost calling to mind insect chatter as they echo against the glassy minimalist synths that swell beneath.
If the aforementioned track induces a subaquatic feel more than anything else, ‘Their Eyes Met Across The Partition’ gets more optimistic and blissful as a backdrop of distantly ringing tones gets gradually overtaken by delicate delay-treated melodic arrangements that build into a web around an insistent waspy background pulse – indeed, there’s much more of a sense of dreamlike reverie than corporate activities at play here.
‘Message’ meanwhile drags things straight back to an urban setting, offering up a presumably real sampled phone message from a building security guy rather politely asking the guys to please stop playing music in a place of business, while elsewhere ‘Power Walk’ ventures closer to mid-eighties Tangerine Dream, conjuring up visions of some filmic glide over a futuristic landscapes as waspy lead synths trace a path over meandering melodic sequences, the eerie buzzing tones that take over at the end seeming to drag the listener off into space with them.
If ‘Random Acts Of Elevator Music’ often seems to be stretching out towards far more cosmic directions than just the office cubicle, that’s definitely not a bad thing. And as a fairly non-intrusive listening experience, it certainly didn’t seem to dent my productivity when I played it in the office the other day.