A short while ago, I reviewed the debut EP Compilation Vol. 1 by UCLA musician Derek Kortepeter. Since then Derek has put the finishing touches on his first full-length album Stochastic, an even more experimental collection.
Music like this is difficult for me to review as it’s pretty far out from the mainstream. Take the opening track, “Veritas”. The first 45 seconds are the sounds of guitar scrapes and echos, before the grand chords commence. As an opening track, this is both a welcome and a warning: It says, “If you find me intriguing, dive in! But if this is not much more than noise to you, farewell!” Not everybody is going to get music like this.
“Veritas” flows seamlessly into “Burning Embers” which uses backwards guitar as a melodic hook. Heavy, noisy guitars and drums soon flood the speakers. It’s difficult to grasp at the rhythm, but Derek does not make music that does not challenge him. Just listen. Allow the music to seep in, and you will begin to pick up on the melodies and rhythms within. It’s there in the contrasting guitars and keys. At this point I’ll mention that Derek plays all the instruments on Stochastic himself.
“Illusions” plays with odd drum rhythms and mixes guitars with synths into an atmospheric whole. I couldn’t tell you what effects he’s using on his guitar but it sounds cool to me. There’s lots of echo and bluesy playing on “Solitary”. I find that there is plenty to love here, you just have to really listen and let it happen. In particular, even though this isn’t a “guitar album”, I was drawn to that instrument.
“Fusion” is a favourite track of mine. This is a jazzy, upbeat mellow tune with a tropical feel. The piano is a key instrument here, while Derek noodles cool jazzy licks on his six string. Elsewhere (like on “Glitch”), I hear elements of Steve Vai’s fearlessness and playfulness. Steve Vai once said, “Sorry folks, I can’t help myself,” in regards to his experimentation. I think Derek can probably relate.
Another moment I really enjoyed is a multitracked cacophony of guitar and drums in “Solar Wind”. But it’s not just noise. It’s easy to see how somebody could hear it as noise, but there’s a lot going on here. (I can’t tell you exactly what is going on, but trust me, it’s happening. It’s very dense.) Then it goes sparse, with only one guitar, which throws you a bit (in a good way).
Finally I’ll quote Derek from his own website, because I think what he says hits the nail on the head:
“Many records, when they find their groove, bring the listener to a certain element of familiarity. This LP is quite the opposite of that. I want you to react, to think, to be moved, to be jarred, to be confused, and ultimately form an opinion on what it is that you are hearing. Whatever the “Stochastic” system determines for your mind, I can promise that it will be a unique result. This result will not be repeated in the consciousness of another human being listening to the same songs.”
Stochastic by Derek Kortepeter is available at CD Baby, iTunes, and beyond.