The Syncopated Elevators Legacy gathers up various recordings from between 1997 and 2005, coupling them with a fresh selection of remixes (courtesy of Christian Fennesz, Burning Star Core, My Cat Is An Alien and more) and placing the whole lot in a lovely 2xLP package. Stevens’ work falls within the realms of the electronic and the abstract – sometime broken and interrupted by little jolts of glitch, sometimes left to unwind clumsily in unsteady synthesiser arpeggiations, and always unlocking a very warming, humane emotion within the clumps of artificial texture.
There’s also something very tangible and three-dimensional about Stevens’ sound creation. More than once on the first side (comprised of an EP from 2000 and a composition from 1997), tonality crumples into scratchy spheres of static, as if rolled untidily from a shimmering, creaseless sheet into a jagged ball of foil – he displays a captivating understanding of the ways in which audio can appear to adopt an illusionary presence within physical space, conjuring not only mental imagery, but striking flashes of texture and taste.
Side B sees the collection edge further into the new millennium, with live drums and little yodels of woodwind bringing a greater sense of immediacy and spontaneity to the music’s construction. Sound longer feels like the result of a clinical process, but crystalises quickly in the air like impulsive bursts of spoken conversation, responding almost mindlessly to the emphasis and punctuation applied sporadically by the live accompaniment. Meanwhile, the compilations longest and most recent cut (a 12-minute mini-LP from 2005) takes Stevens into a more meditative space of slow fades and gentle drone overlaps – a sort of backwards wind chime for outer space, gradually intensifying as the coating of distortion starts to thicken and serrate the smooth edges, while flattening the harmonies into one thin line of monotony and overtone. Great stuff.
The other LP is dedicated to rather impressive selection of remix artists, all of which do well to tug the original material into new places. Fennesz turns the cosy, spontaneous jams of side B’s opening throws into an echoing drone that sounds as though it’s taken aeons to form, scattering shards of glitch and ride cymbal in amongst an endless tunnel of buzz and reverb while culminating in a sombre melody fit for his Endless Summer full length. My Cat Is An Alien offer up another notable highlight, embedding ghostly vocal harmony and ugly chord loops into Stevens’ spluttering interference.