Lijnenspel: Info 1 – Compression



In the ongoing discussion about the quality of physical (vinyl, CD) versus digital distribution music lovers can sometimes act like religious fanatics. But there is consensus among most about one thing: lossy MP3 is inferior to all other formats – especially when a lower bitrate is used. No doubt about that, right?

Enter Lijnenspel (Dutch for line play or line pattern), Berlin-based sound artist (or perhaps artists? I don’t know really) “exploring the interplay between form, timbre and volatility”. They are definitely not afraid of a bit of provocation: their 2018 release Agressiestudie 1 (Agression Study 1) was released on (“a record label that releases experimental music through spam”) and served as a soundtrack for a BDSM porn video that went viral with more than half a million views in 3 months. (No need to search: it is taken down but the soundtrack is still available).

Lijnenspel goes ‘meta’ by focusing on the exact thing everybody hates about MP3: the artefacts of extreme compression. On Compression (don’t say you weren’t warned by the appropriate title) they do so by presenting three one-hour tracks titled 48 Kbps, 8000Hz, 8 Kbps, 11025Hz and 24 Kbps, 12000 Hz. Music intended “to provide relief from information overload through gentle noise”.
The fun fact: they completely removed the signal from the noise! The goal: make you enjoy listening to the things you hate. Some next-level Clicks & Cuts glitch!

Compression was created by recording simple gestures from various vintage synthesizers, compressing those gestures into low fidelity MP3 format countless times and ultimately removing the original signal from the recording leaving only the compression artifacts.”

So much for the conceptual background. The BIG question is of course: how does this sound at all? Well – this may come as a surprise: the result is not unlike the music of artists that heavily inspired Lijnenspel: Éliane Radigue, and Pauline Oliveros.

For me, it worked best when I played it on speakers, letting the waves interact bouncing through the room. On headphones, the drone seemed to get more static and somewhat less interesting.
Of course, you dó need to be able to enjoy static long-form drone music. But even if you don’t, Info 1 – Compression is worth checking out to get a different view on low bitrate compression artefacts.

8 Kbps, 11025Hz
8 Kbps, 11025Hz

The result is not the only thing that is surprising. If you download the three-hour album from Bandcamp you may notice an unusual short download time. This is due to the full album size being … only 31.6 MB!!! A regular album of this length would be 10 to 50 times as large.

This introduces another interesting detail and explains why the album will not be published on other platforms:
“Many music services recompress audio, thus altering the sound. Some services don’t allow lower bitrate files, which is part of the compression technique that lets Lijnenspel create the compositions. New artifacts may occur during decoding and playback, meaning Compression may sound different on every device.”

Fo this reason, Info 1 – Compression is released on Bandcamp only. And to be true to its concept, you must download it in MP3 format and ignore the FLAC, AIFF, WAV, or other possibilities!

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