Experimental composer John Cage once said, “If you develop an ear for sounds that are ‘musical’ it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are ‘not musical’ and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience.” On his third full-length album Softer Measures, Dublin-born, London-based artist Feather Beds (aka Michael Orange) scoops up a pile of ‘musical sounds’ in one fist and a pile of ‘non-musical’ sounds in the other, and smashes them together to produce an album that is consistently surprising and occasionally euphoric.
Lead single Really Disney teases you with two minutes of looping, dream-like, noise before the glittering sadness of Gordon Wyper’s trumpet and Ben Shorten’s piano breaks through the haze. Sport of Boxing does the opposite, starting off like a familiarly jangly New Wave joint before descending into a reverb-soaked cacophony. Elsewhere on the LP, Visible Lines is a standout track. Described by Orange as “Americana on ketamine”, it deploys shifting time signatures and woozy synths to great effect, somehow managing to simulate that nice feeling of being drunk but not too drunk.
This pushing and pulling between musical and non-musical ideas is a hard thing to balance, and the line between ‘pleasant noise’ and just plain ‘noise’ is a thin and subjective one. Despite the fact that there is little to connect one track to another, at least at a surface level, Softer Measures achieves a satisfyingly chaotic cohesion from start to finish.
Feather Beds – Softer Measures
Words: Joe Joyce