Two New Releases Separate Chris Moore From the Electronic Pack
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Much like his music, Chris Moore has no interest in pushing himself on you. As an electronic musician working under the moniker While, he's more interested in exploring forms than promoting messages. On his imminent EP Haze and LP Even (the former due out shortly, the latter in November, both on the Miami-based label Chocolate Industries), the forms are dark, thoughtful, and extremely personal ones, steps apart from the usual "intelligent dance music" (IDM) sound.
"I guess it's just an individuality of sound and textures," says the 26-year-old Moore, meditating on what sets a producer apart from the pack in the crowded electronic underground. "I guess my earlier records sound [as if I] was ripping off Autechre--it kind of sounds like that to [other] people, I guess. But the stuff I'm doing now has very little similarity [to that]."
Many of the tracks on Even and Haze bear the sullen melodies and deliberately erratic drum programming that characterize many of Moore's bedroom-based peers. But this time around, his abstraction bears a greater resemblance to German analog-rock pioneers like Can and Neu!, adapted for the digital age. Such a sound befits his earlier sonic experiments while a student at St. Mary's College in Southern Maryland.
"When I was 18 or so, I started listening to a lot of industrial music--Throbbing Gristle and SPK and stuff--and sort of realized I could make that music without having to buy a lot of expensive equipment," he says. "So I just got a four-track [recorder] and made these completely bizarre sorts of compositions. One song would have some chains or something, and the next song would be breaking beer bottles."
This all changed when Moore heard abstract-techno producer Aphex Twin for the first time. Once bitten, he began to create tracks at a rapid pace, filling a 60-minute DAT tape with new music each month. He also involved himself heavily in the burgeoning Internet-fueled IDM scene, before tiring of the endless flame wars and ego clashes over fourth-generation IDM rejects.
"There's definitely a lot of people in the U.S. who are making electronic music that's basically knockoffs," Moore says. "Something will happen in Europe and then, a year or two later, Americans will catch on and create their own version of it, which is sometimes interesting and sometimes just really derivative. And with electronic music, it's just a lot easier to sound exactly like someone. If you like Jimi Hendrix, you can buy the same guitar and the same pedals, but you're never going to be Jimi Hendrix. Whereas you can go out and buy all of Autechre's equipment and make sounds that sound just like [Autechre's]."
The change in Moore's music came around the same time as his move to Baltimore last October. Moore, who grew up in Silver Spring, says he wanted to escape both suburbia and the Washington area. "It's really expensive, and there's a lot of rich, really pretentious people there," says Moore, who now lives in Fells Point. "When you go to Baltimore, you just walk around and someone on the street will just talk to you, and, like, say 'Hi,' but in D.C. they're always sizing up the cost of your wardrobe and stuff."
Luckily for Moore, he doesn't have to pay much attention to status at this point. In the underground electronic scene, affiliation is everything, and his alliances--with labels such as Skam in England, Musik Au Strom (run by Björk faves Funkstörung) in Germany, and Chocolate Industries stateside--causes his limited-edition recordings to sell out as soon as they're released to the IDM underground. With Even slated for a wider release, Moore appears set to introduce his work to the host of indie rockers and white hip-hop fans looking for the next frontier in modern music.
The silent mourning of Moore's compositions will also be echoed in an upcoming EP (also on Chocolate Industries) featuring remixes by Austrian guitarist Fennesz and Tortoise's John Herndon. (Another remix by Stereolab/ Tortoise producer John McIntyre will be released at a later date.) And that may be all we hear from While for a while. Moore now speaks of putting music behind him for the time being.
"I think the main satisfaction in music for me is finished when the song is finished," he says. "I do feel proud that I have records out, but it's not as exciting for me as it would be for some people who are interested in having their faces in magazines and all that."