Last year's Noise Tape Self delved into repetitive textural constructions using loops made from busted-open cassette tapes. But where that record had some semblance of beats and melodies, Dickow's follow-up, Information Pollution, leaps into full-fledged abstraction. These four tracks feel less like musical compositions and more like transmission from distant space, as if their stark vibrations were already floating in the air and Dickow simply channeled them. As he told RA in 2012, "I guess I don't like to be in control."
The process of making Information Pollution was certainly not about control. Dickow recorded it live to tape without using synths or samples. His only tools were radios, effects boxes and an old reel-to-reel deck inherited from his father. The radios are the album's most prominent element; each piece includes some kind of of airwave chatter, though it's rarely identifiable as speech. Still, these shards of broadcast detritus are the central character in Information Pollution, humanizing soundscapes that might otherwise feel alien.
Dickow's unintelligible voices are strongest when they fight to be heard in the cold, lonely atmosphere around them. In "Public Voyeurs," speech seems to merge with static, as if the radio itself were doing the talking, but there's always a sense that actual words might break through. During the clicking "Fossil Data," voices get bolder, cutting through stillness like razor blades. Dickow has said that the album title represents all the unwanted junk we absorb in our "social-emotional public realm." In that sense, his voices battle to preserve meaning in the waterfall of daily information deluge.
It's perhaps best not to take Information Pollution too literally, though. Dickow has masterfully reflected our modern mental state, but this music is ultimately more about feeling than commentary. That feeling can be despairing or wondrous; Dickow's echoing ambiances sometimes evoke post-apocalyptic visions, and sometimes they suggest a return to the nature's simple unity. Whatever mood it inspires, Information Pollution is always working on you.