The Wire Magazine
Like many musicians these days. 310 collaborate across long distances. Joseph Dierker lives in Seattle and collects sounds. He then sends them, by good old-fashioned post, apparently, to his New York partner Tim Donovan, who then moulds them into loops, and adds layers of rhythm and production. Rather than detracting from their sound, this technique is at the heart of what 310 are about. On this reissue of their first two albums, Aug 56 (1997) and Snorkelhouse (1998), you get the feeling that there is a story behind all of their samples. The overall sound is extremely eclectic, with elements of country, Ambient, HipHop and World Music slipping and sliding in and out of the mix, but the documentary, audio polaroid feeling of Dierker's found snippets makes the whole thing much more curious and alluring than it could have been.
Aug 56 showcases the pair's mellower melodic side. opening with rich guitar work and horns. rather like the Ambient Americana of Labradford. As the tracks segue into each other, we get sitars, tablas, weeping and wailing sounds, tannoy announcements, street bustle, sirens. "Indifferent Trains" gives a respectful nod to Steve Reich, with its slowly shifting pattern of guitars very much in the manner of the American minimalist (or Tortoise, for that matter). Meanwhile, Snorkelhouse focuses more on the texture of the beats, illustrating Donovan's production skills (he works as a HipHop engineer for The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest and Method Man, among others). "Raincarnation" weaves a heavily treated vocal over tight, snappy drums and Ambient textures. "Farm Show Complex" feels like going down some Amazonian backwater in a canoe with John Lee Hooker.
While all of these moments are seeped in atmosphere and are crafted with obvious love and attention to detail. The collection does duffer from a static approach to structure. Individual tracks don't develop much once and initial loop is set up. Rather. they zero in on and develop a mood. Before the next tune prompts a sudden shift forward. The result is a rather literal take on the "journey in your head" notion. This trip also means bouts of waiting in departure lounges and sudden delays. Even so. it's a ride well worth taking.
Barely a few months after the release of the critically acclaimed After All album, 310 sees their first two outputs finally getting a proper release, thanks to the Leaf Label. Aug 56 and Snorkelhouse, originally released on the band's own small imprint in 1997 and 1998 respectively, have been collected on one double album.
With these two albums, Joseph Dierker and Tim Donovan were to establish the basis of the 310 sound. Built on remains of stripped down hip-hop structures, Aug 56 explodes in found sounds, arranged with surgical precision, and appears progressively tenebrous and viscous, as tracks morph into each other. Bits of disjointed conversations are swallowed by the magmatic ambience, creating a constant feeling of discomfort. If we are far from the minimalist darkness of isolationism, a truly similar spirit inhabits the album. Waves of earthy sounds seem to regenerate themselves indefinitely as they slowly mutate. Only here, 310 apply intricate melodies and meticulous beats to these hermetic environments, in an effort to relieve the tension slightly.
Snorklehouse, the album that got 310 noticed by The Leaf Label, pulls similar strings as it lays the foundations for The Dirty Rope, third album from the duo. Here, the pair still plays with intricate ambiences, although, for this album, Dierker and Donovan dig deeper in their hip-hop influences, and present a more channelled work, with heavier beat sections, starting with Fresh 24, a rather upbeat piece of urban allegiance, set between post rock and dirty dancefield. Perhaps even more than on Aug 56, the recurring inspiration behind Snorklehouse is the city. Using hectic New York life as a backdrop for their compositions, the pair injects some intense sonic structures into pretty innocent songs, creating dense atmospheric patterns as they smash any residue of rock, electro, dub, jazz or folk into pieces, and patiently reassemble them as they wish. This gives Snorklehouse an even more mature and defined sound than its predecessor, and convinces more than ever about the incredible potential of 310.
After four albums, Joseph Dierker and Tim Donovan still sound like nothing else around, and, as they continue to explore their own piece of musical land, this long overdue re-release is a refreshing look at early 310 work. This is sound regeneration at its best.
BBC - Music
Who are/is 310? I don't know. I could find out: there's a website address on the back cover of the cd. I could go and look it up, but I'm not going to, at least until I've heard the music enough, written this review and sent it off. It's not often you get to experience something nowadays without some form of mediation; actually I guess a cd cover and the track titles act as pretty big mediation. So let's go interpret: the cover is black with black and white photographs - one I really like is of a young boy with a snorkel mask over his face, the tops of some trees reflected in the glass of his mask; another one is taken looking through a first floor window at a pigeon perched on the windowledge, wintry backyards visible below. The pics appear to be from a past America, from a box found in an attic. Some of the track titles are redolent of the 50s too: 'Cop Slain', 'Persian Wolf', 'Dick Vitale is Dead'.
It's a double cd pack, both cds previously released as separate albums (Snorkelhouse in 1998, Aug 56 in 1997); each is over 70 minutes long. It's on Leaf. Enough already: onto the music. Initially it's quiet and quite minimal, micro events fade up and fade out or drop away. Drums are to the fore on some tracks - could be programmed, but they sound to me like they're real drums, or at least sampled real ones. The music seems unhurried, happy to take its time, not out to make a big impression straightaway. You know that the changes, modulations, details will become more significant the more you hear them. Drumtracks and looped sounds. The sounds are like urban sonic detritus gathering over the decades which has finally found a (useful) home. Feelings evoked are mainly of foreboding, unease, or of suspension, floating.
This music sounds to me like a cross between early Material (circa Temporary Music) and Michael Brook's Hybrid with a touch of the darker elements of Boards of Canada; like an ethnography of faded NY suburbs, of possibilities lost but recaptured and given value. Intriguing, definitely worth the effort of listening and relistening.
Although "Downtown & Brooklyn Only" contain only the republication of the first two 310 albums from the years 1997 and 1998, the bent listener eyes and ears should keep open, because the musical sensory impressions are strong like never before. In New York resident artist duo consisting of SNORKELHoUSE and August 56 carries forward us on an exciting audiovisual journey. We dip working road courses of their hometown together down there into the schrillen, being noisy, over-populated, partly also very lonely and frightening.
It continues to go through a true labyrinth of more fully carefully arranged sound sequences, until we finally appear in a pot, which is filled with infinite noise fragments. Only few pieces on "Downtown & Brooklyn Only" pursue calculable rhythm concepts in the traditional sense, on the contrary 310 presents an unfinished puzzle at ideas and schillernden to tone qualities. Thus are they to the experimental illustration art one nod Higgins surely more near, as the Dancefloor, but whom that disturbs already?
Three and four years may not be much time to wait to re-release an album, but when your first two albums are very limited releases and then your third album goes on to receive as much praise as 310's "After All" did, it may just be the right thing to do.
Musical anarchists and experimentalists Joseph Dierker (DJ and "inventor") and Tim Donovan (top sound engineer bod) have been connecting through their music for a long time. And now their friendship, first nurtured as they both lived in New York, has survived their geographical separation. Like a game of musical ping pong, textures and layer upon layer of each track build and gather momentum as they are passed backwards and forwards across water and land, from one friend to another – until the end result is reached.
The two albums featured here, "Snorkelhouse" and "Aug 56" are equally as bizarre; more of a cleverly crafted collage of sounds than an accessible collection of tunes with a beginning, middle and end. Whale noises, jumbled with traffic and disjointed beats, unidentifiable murmurs and carefully delivered non-sequitares; their daring often borders on arrogance but nevertheless they manage get away with it. Their talent is obvious.
You should approach with caution because what you will hear could not possibly be what you expect to hear. But listen at your leisure, open your eyes, mind and senses to an incomparable, unclassifiable and often shocking sound.
Having found their more recent material to be brooding and subterranean, I was surprised to find their beginnings rooted in a far deeper hole of a city. All is drawn into a regressive drone that gives way to great yawning chasms of sound, suggestive of something very, very bad brewing in the very fibres of stone and concrete that house a dense population.
This is a very primal sound that nestles in graffiti and menacing mutated hip-hop rhythms, as its brood scuttle rapidly and methodically ever closer. At times it appears as if a waterlogged grandfather clock has at some point been swallowed.
310 create an unsettling atmosphere building the metaphorical life rhythms of a dark, dark city. This is wonderfully complimented in their track titles from Global Illage and Indifferent Trains to my personal favourite Your Mother's no Good Here.