I’m not what you’d call a “big-city” person. So when the Angry Vegan Records release “Urban Electronic Music” by William C. Harrington arrived, you’ll have to understand that the title didn’t conjure a whole lot of positive images for me. In my limited experience, “urban” is too many people, too little privacy, not enough green– all the best excuses to live somewhere less intense. “Urban” is somewhere I’d visit, but wouldn’t want to stay.
If Harrington’s intent is to capture this feeling, I think he does it well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the album quite a bit. It’s a fascinating trip to take! Like any good-sized city, Harrington has populated his album with a diverse set of voices– Arp 2600, E-mu Classic, and VK-7 keys clamor for attention alongside bowed guitar, cell phones, loops, saxophone, salad bowls, and a host of other unlikely objects.Within many tracks, like “I Slept Through Vespers” or “Cuckoo to You,” distinct sound events play a lesser role; with more of a blended, futuristic, electroacoustic feel. However, some tracks, like “One for Nick,” sound dated– I had some similar synth percussion presets on my old Casio– but isn’t part of the “urban” experience the contrast and layering of old and new? Would a city like St. Louis or Chicago (or Memphis!) retain any of its flavor if it stayed “updated” all the time? Oddly enough; one track on the album, “Enola Gay,” really is dated– 1973, to be precise– but fits so well you won’t suspect a thing.
“Remnants” seems to best reflect this layering, with Harrington providing a real hubbub of activity. This track best reflects the vibrant “aliveness” present in a city like New York, where the pattern and activity of the city itself seems to take on a life of its own. For a one-man album (composed, realized, produced, and engineered by Harrington) it’s a marvelous accomplishment.