John Shima – CPU Modular 1

2 out of 5

Label: CPU

Produced by: John Shima

Every new CPU release has been, at least, of interest, if not hype. So many different artists and splinters of IDM / electro to which I’ve been exposed thanks to the imprint, and while not all of it has necessarily held my interest, I’ve generally been able to understand the appeal of whatever I’ve heard.

Putting on John Shima’s CPU Modular 1, if I wasn’t wholly cognizant of what I was playing, would likely have been the first release to make me do a double-take as to the imprint. This is something from CPU? I strained my ears for what I was missing, but while there were some interesting sounds, what I heard – across a few spins – was a rather uninspired use of those sounds, and incredibly repetitive, and limited, to the point of being almost annoying, such as on third track 011.

But I haven’t heard of John Shima before, so I go looking for some news, and here’s some blurbs from the general press blurb given for this release: “John Shima and C P Smith were joking around one evening…” – C P Smith being the name of the person who runs CPU, and the story is starting off as though the music was born from a lark, so two red flags – “Smith challenged Shima (to) produce a record using nothing more than a small modular synth setup…” – and red flag three: we’re listening to a dare. But at least the limited makeup makes sense.

While I’m unfamiliar with synth setups in general, I can piece some concepts together, so given the confines, the accurately named CPU Modular 1 has some Hm factor to it, likely upgraded to Wow if you are familiar with synths, but I still don’t know that that makes it much of a listen. Rather, it sets it on par with some experimental music, where you’re appreciating it more for what it conceptually is than as a piece of music itself. This is generally not my favorite field.

I like the way Shima makes use of some very minimalized percussion, and 010 parallels some synths against that for a DMX-y bouncy effect, but without Ed’s rather perfect sense of pacing and scope – Shima’s version of it runs out of steam after a go-round. 011, as mentioned, becomes pretty grating – it’s higher BPM increases the repetition effect – with solely ending track 005 falling into a range of stuff that’s pretty good (Shima wrings out some pretty grooving noises I wouldn’t have expected, based on the other three tracks), though still not really par with “average” CPU material.

Shima fans, fans of experiments in restriction – go for it. This one dipped below the bar for me.