In the 1940s, frustrated with the limitations of the human players at his disposal, Conlon Nancarrow started writing music for the player piano, an instrument that could "perform" his difficult and complex rhythmic pieces with precision and consistency. Similar to Nancarrow's early experiments with sequencing, Christopher Tignor's compositions on the new Wires Under Tension album Replicant use machines to create "impossible" scenes that confound and intrigue our mind's ear. With a battery of custom built software instruments, samples, and 7 live lopers, Tignor and master percussionist Theo Metz saturate our senses with new colors reflecting the urgent vitality of their South Bronx neighborhood. At times the two seem to lock talons like eagles in a death spiral, as Metz's brutal percussive athleticism keeps pace with Tignor's machines in an aural game of chicken.
Inspired by Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and its filmic adaption, Blade Runner Replicant takes on the questions of mechanized identity, the feeling of flawed copies, and the inescapable bummer of being too self-aware. Throughout the album, Tignor and Metz lean into the impossible musical moments, challenging the identity of what this music is and where it comes from. As the mechanized forces hybridize with the duo's live performance, new musical identities with their own evolving culture emerge within a landscape that does not, and simply cannot, differentiate between where the programming ends and expressive intent begins. The uncountable grooves on the title track "Replicant", the optimistically insistent violin arpeggios on tracks like "Crystal Beaches", and the ghostly collages of AM radio voices heard throughout the album…all sounds that must have been programed, but continue to echo their acoustic roots, anchoring the entire sonic landscape to something sentient, that feels like it's anything but programmed.
The inspiration and experiences that led Tignor to write Replicant are directly tied to his employment history and educational background. His undergraduate degree in Literature, Masters in Computer Science, and PhD in Music Composition are all reflected in Replicant's thematic and technical underpinnings. Prior to his current job as a software engineer for Google, he held a number of interesting jobs including working as LaMonte Young's personal assistant, an EMT, a sound engineer at CBGB, a bike messenger, and has had the opportunity to handle live sound for artists including Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Patti Smith. Listening to Replicant, it's interesting to contemplate how each of these experiences have made their mark on the man and the Replicant.