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Matt Davignon - SoftWetFish:

SoftWetFish is Matt's second CD to use drum machine as the only sound source (after 2005's "Bwoo"). Not at all like the rhythms and beats one would expect, the sounds are very abstract, characterized by organic tapestries, drones, frantic passages and lovely flaws.
Released in August, 2006

Ordering from Edgetone Records

Download the album at (Emusic subscription required)

Also Available at
Aquarius Records in San Francisco, CA.
Amoeba Music in Berkeley, CA.

Organelles (2.84 mb)
Lying in Grass, Gazing Upwards at 11:30 PM (7.2 mb)

Reviews so far:


Matt Davignon, one of the local artists performing, has a new record, Soft Wet Fish (Edgetone), which displays work primarily channeled through a drum machine. It’s not beats that he’s producing, however: it’s twisted sound manipulation, distorting a number of doctored instruments to create a sound that’s sometimes spare and crackling, alternately taking turns into what ’70s kraut rock may have sounded like to dolphins — fragile and gorgeous and stubbornly weird.

- Michael Harkin, San Francisco Bay Guardian

Matt Davignon has always made a virtue of creating music that's wide ranging in its scope yet derived from limited source material. It helps to know that the only sound source on SoftWetFish is a drum machine, which, filtered through other electronic devices creates a singular lexicon of processed sound. SoftwetFish feels at once vast and clausterphobic, a whole world viewed as if in a bell jar. Opener "Polyps", however, could be viewed as the first evolutionary stage, the breeding and proliferation of atomic matter. By "Lying in Grass, Gazing Upward at 11:30pm", it's as if small, doglike amphibians have emerged tentatively onto land from the lapping, prehistoric waves. By "Bee Sting", these creatures have evolved to the point of developing their own radio system. It's clear from the titles alone that Davignon had no such narrative in mind himself, but such is the fecundity and vivity of SoftWetFish that anything is possible in the mind's ear.

  - David Stubbs, Wire Magazine (December 2006)

In Vital Weekly we were introduced to the music of one Matt Davignon, who quite originally used two drum computers and sound effects for the improvised nature of his improvisations. On 'SoftWetFish' he continues this line of work, and as such he does he great job. The thirteen pieces are again, most likely, generated through the use of improvisation and edited into small and delicate pieces of music. However it stays far away from the sound of real drum computers and is still nowhere close to anything even remotely techno or industrial. Davignon's music is rather musique concrete or even acousmatic music. The surprise here, compared to 'Bwoo' is a bit gone, and that is a pity. Although it is a too bold statement to make, I couldn't escape the thought of listening to 'Bwoo' again. All the ingredients of that album are to be found here again. Like I said before: his techniques are surely unorthodox, now show us the improvisations with other people.

- Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly

Improv electronic experimental soundscapes, tracks range from chirping like insects, ringing, drum tones, keyboard ambience, click and pop, static and underwater ears plugged. Unlike loop or minimalistic music, Davignon engages attentive listeners to become lost in the relentless jams. There is no meter nor harmony, as tracks realistically represent the chaos of nature. Pieces tend to be echo heavy, with minimal looping giving the listeners a much more intense interaction. Production-wise, some intentional cd-skips are left throughout the disc and no fade-outs have tracks ending with a harsh aikido assassination. Track 4 has a great wet cave feel for the spelunker in all of us. The first 3 tracks reminds me of the noises that the tree branches make on your windows at night, or the clawing of zombies into flesh, harsh sandpaper toilet paper, like a cats tongue must feel on their orifices.

- johnny darko, KFJC

Experimental electro-acoustic. Very unique. Like electronic fishies swimming in your ears and robotic worms massaging your insides. Not new age, academic, nor straight-up electronica. Most tracks are slow and soft, some more tense. All intriguing. Lots of “wet” sounds indeed. Bay area composer!  Favs 2, 6, 12.

1. Manipulated night scape – crickets, a river, frogs... Beautiful pitch bending.
*2. More electronic-sounding. A crackly noise persists throughout, a synthesizer yawn sound, and some drippy swirly stuff. Beautiful.
3. Noisy. Lots of different complicated rhythms/sounds going on at once.
4. Beautiful shimmery water – title "Organelles" – sounds like they’re doing a ballet :)
5. Melodic somehow, more of a song, with clearer separate sounds. Slow and looping beat.
*6. Tiny clicky/fluttery sounds under tense tones and what sounds like a sampled timpani that keeps changing pitch. Breathy sound added last two minutes. Blends into next track.
7. Breathy sounds that fade in and out quickly, tabla sound, gets more clustered/dense towards the end, more percussion added.
8. Fuller – fast fluttery beats under/over drones.
9. 25 seconds. Ha, like flipping channels between sound cameras that monitor various bodily processes.
10. Subtle heart-beat/deep wave sounds, under skittery electronic beats. Also what sounds like a tiny xylophone played with hyper-speed mallets.
11. Fitting title – “Sculpture by Erosion” – tiny beats all on top of each other softly machine-gunning away, with a few strange sound-creatures popping up including – whoa! Nintendo sounds, which are surprising here – this CD rocks!
**12. Ha, funny – breath sounds, whistling, and a gentle machine gun!
13. Again tiny fluttery beats – a return to the first track with the night-time nature scape sound.

- Muafor, KZSU 90.1 (Stanford)

Davignon is back with his pseudo-marine structures, which he obtains through processed drum machines manipulated in such a stimulating fashion that the results are both stunningly multi-faceted and totally mind altering. I enjoyed “SoftWetFish” in several settings, noticing an increase in Matt’s use of saturation. Not that you’re going to hear Hendrix-like fuzz, mind you; I’m only referring to the capacity of his sounds to completely fill the gap between silence and those undifferentiated masses of events that might appear disorganized but instead reveal various layers of “programmed anarchy”. This means being first subjected to tiny frequencies and irregular, almost spastic rhythmic emissions that prepare to something stronger, which inevitably arrives under the guise of subsonic bumps, synthetic tides and interrelations of biochemical composites whose movement is similar to the bubbles in a mad scientist’s alembic. The fun starts when you realize that this transformation of elements, which one could also associate to some kind of volcanic activity, is indeed pretty relaxing: the brain receives a rubbing in the "right" way, abandoning the search for the complex and the minute detail, all the while favouring a process of “conscious void” that is more caressing than quarrelsome. It’s an addictive kind of music, whose psychological effects are huge when we manage to separate its configuration from what’s commonly anticipated when we deal with the “drum machine” concept. Like its predecessor “Bwoo”, this album is worthy of many attentive (or even not so attentive) listenings; your vital organs could even benefit from them.

- Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

Davignon likes to play with drum machines and other electronic devices. His pieces are more snaps and crackles than beats proper, but if you listen long enough, you will discover some structure to the chaos. This stuff will send you scurrying around the less-traveled bits of your skull, and what you think of it will have a lot to do with your state of mind. Not that that isn't true of any album, of course.

- Jon Worley - Aiding and Abetting

My mind races a lot when I'm trying to fall asleep, and I have turned to certain albums from time to time on headphones to help calm the mind and get it moving in the direction of the dream realm. For a while, I was listening to "Other Times" by King Chubby for that purpose. Then I was using "Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks" by Brian Eno, especially on long train trips and long flights.

Matt's new album is one of those I might turn to in the future. It is intriguing, and beautiful, and experimental, but also soothing. I can see it getting my mind off my day-to-day obsessions and steering me towards an otherworld inhabited by strange organisms making oozey organic sounds and flopping around.

I have Matt's album "Bwoo" also, and it's good, but "SoftWetFish" is better. It takes me deeper into that otherplace and offers up even more sounds you'd never expect to come out of a drum machine. I think (and I hope) Matt will go down in history as the discoverer of all a drum machine's extended techniques. Because he's nowhere near done yet, as far as I can tell.

- Polly Moller

Travei há dias conhecimento com o novo disco de Matt Davignon, SoftWetFish, com carimbo de saída na Edgetone Records datado de Agosto de 2006. SoftWetFish vem na sequência de um primeiro disco de Davignon, Bwoo, também na Edgetone, e acentua a impressão satisfatória deixada pelo disco precedente, do qual não se afasta de forma assinalável, antes aprofunda e desenvolve algumas das pistas anteriormente esboçadas. Se atentarmos na instrumentação utilizada num caso e noutro – uma simples caixa de ritmos manipulada de acordo com técnicas e objectivos que suponho não serem convencionais em matéria de funcionalidade e de resultado (não se ouvem beats ou clicks próprios da função dançante ou outra, por exemplo), e processamento sequencial – dir-se-á que este peixe nada em águas escuras e profundas, onde o tempo se mede de outra maneira, longe da superficial e sofisticada espuma tecnológica habitualmente associada aos projectos musicais de base electrónica, v.g., laptops, samplers, sintetizadores e toda a sorte de maquinaria disponível no mercado.

É justamente o lado low-tech (e até obsolete-tech) de SoftWetFish que acentua os resultados em presença, fruto da utilização daquela ferramenta única nos trabalhos de experimentação e pesquisa sonora. Desta forma, o músico de Oakland, Califórnia, consegue elevados níveis de eficiência, se se quiser, pois obtém mais resultado com menor investimento.

O desenho das composições de Davignon retém traços de algum formalismo, enquanto estruturas que sustentam a progressão sonora. Esse movimento consegue-se através de técnicas como a sobreposição de camadas, a produção de ondas vibratórias e a geração de micro-sons, dispostos em cursos pré-ordenados e espacialmente orientados em várias direcções. É este subtil aperto formal que afasta o disco da tentação aleatória de ligar a máquina e deixar andar, e disciplina a manufactura de sons fragmentados, que saltando da superfície plana, projectam-se no espaço e adquirem interessantes efeitos a três dimensões. Sem deslaçar, as estruturas adquirem vibrações próprias e acabam por constituir blocos texturais e padrões de cor com apuradas variações tímbricas e dinâmicas de efeito oscilante.

Mesmo sem apresentar um trabalho cujo valor principal seja a marcante diferença conceptual em relação ao projecto anterior, de que importou o figurino de confecção, adaptando-o, com SoftWetFish, qual bilhete de passagem para outra dimensão emocional e sensorial, Matt Davignon consegue um resultado muito atraente e perdurável na memória do ouvinte.

- Eduardo Chagas, Jazz Y Arredores (in Portuguese)