For those who know Brad Rose, the prolific "polymath" behind Digitalis Recordings and at least one interesting thing that I see each week, his final album as the North Sea is sad in that the name is an old one. One of my first new "experimental records" was one of his early CD-R releases. As I recall, it came on a hand-decorated CD slipped between two customized boards in a large ziploc bag. I knew something great was happening and though Grandeur & Weakness, Brad's final LP under the name, will end its participation in that culture, the influence of the name remains. Like Jeremy Bible's blistering visualization of "Vagrant", track four on the eight song album, Brad's presence is often indistinct, but it remains all the more captivating because of it.
"From synthesizer soundscapes that seek to reconcile the limits of timbre to concrete sampling and collage, Grandeur & Weakness plays a crash course in sonic evocation. Clearly in control of The North Sea sound, Rose notes that he has 'never spent more time on any solo project than on this record,' and this is apparent throughout . . . There's a sense of the uncanny, a mysterious unsettling, throughout the album and this is directly attributable to [the album's] aesthetic basis in Franz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, African percussion, and progressive drone. The "psychology of colonization . . . and all the awfulness that entails" is viewed both literally and figuratively through an aura of uncanny unease, and this aura becomes a metaphor for both internal psychological states as well as external manifestations of oppression, despair, and release. "
Like Franz Fanon, Rose explores his theme through a variety of lenses and if Grandeur & Weakness is less a blueprint for revolution than Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, its extensive sonic vocabulary for manifesting those themes is a document of Rose's own genius and monumental contribution to the international experimental community. Though this is the North Sea's final album, for me it will remain his most dramatic and the truest measure of his art as each song slowly expands the album, from a personal opus to a very real tracing of how Fanon imagined change, complete with Brad's meticulous aural renderings of the political masterpiece. The clamoring of "Peasants", the shifting of a hollow mechanism in "Empty, Fragile Shell", and the slow grind of "Violence is a Cleansing Force" with its noisey warble seeming to sound the collapse of bourgeois edifices until "Colonization" more or less delicately shifts into gear as if to describe Fanon's liberated Algeria.
Order Grandeur & Weakness from Rubber City Noise or you can skip that step and go straight to Experimedia.