When the idea of doing a regular Decoder column first came about, one of the first people I knew I had to write about was Dan Burke. Best known for his Illusion of Safety project, Burke has been cranking out all manner of fantastic weirdness for nearly 30 years (the project was officially founded in 1983). That's pretty impressive in-and-of-itself, sure, but what makes Burke such an important figure in my mind is that over that timespan his vision has been relentless. IoS is nearly impossible to pigeonhole, but the absolute lack of boundaries and Burke's willingness to change direction on a dime are his calling cards. This is music that never lets you get settled.
Over the last 29 years, IoS has consisted of multitudes of different members and collaborators - most notably Jim O'Rourke, whose solo on Distractions is arguably my favorite single piece of music he's composed. But it always comes back to Burke. At times it feels like his music is the sonic diary of a mad man, but there is far too much care and thoughtfulness to the way each piece of music and each album is composed for that to be true. Every sound and every section is placed in the perfect spot to keep the aural narrative flowing. It's ugly and harsh one minute and heartbreakingly beautiful the next, but with Burke's talent it always feels right.
Earlier this year, without much fanfare, Burke put a brand new album, Beach Torso, on his bandcamp page. Unsurprisingly, it is wonderful. From the discordant circuitry workouts of "Axis of Resolve" and wabi-sabi techno of "Flaggle" to the midnight synthetic bleakness of "Do Not Resuscitate" and lovely collaged shoegaze of "Diffuse Partial Joy," it's all there - everything you could want. And it works, like some kind of bizarre electronic wizardry. I often hesitate to throw around the word 'genius,' but if it applies to anyone in the experimental sphere these days than it certainly applies to Dan Burke. Beach Torso is a great place to start, but digging through his back catalog is well-advised (I highly recommend the aformentioned Distractions as well as the recent Live at No Fun 2008 tape on Obsolete Units).
Oh, and I think we've got a name for this column finally (whew!), starting next time... hello 'Through Rose Colored Glasses'!
Stream: Beach Torso