Composer Matt Parker spent two months at the National Museum Of Computing at Bletchley Park. He recorded and archived over 100 sounds made from the Museum’s collection (including the famous code breaking machines). The result is The Imitation Archive, 10 pieces to celebrate the story that leads from dials to digital.
For more information on the project read here.
Despite the bedrock of machines purring and into life and buzzing at fever pitch, the music is not just a dry collection of sounds. Neither is it a work of airy ambient. The Imitation Archive is ghostly and buzzes with a piercing intensity. A palpable sense of menace lurks. The album is alive with a presence that demands attention. Fascinatingly, much of the work sounds insectoid; chirps and bleeps that mimic the sound of a forest floor. Long drones populate the periphery that bring the music closer to the realm of horror movie soundtracks, for example, ‘Test Patterns’ is practically industrial and ‘Terminal’ clanks with foreboding. Meanwhile, opener ‘WITCH’ sounds like an abandoned industrial complex working on automatic, the workers long gone…
It isn’t all heavy though as ‘Wrens’ throbs and clacks at full pitch. ‘Flowers’, the most accessible track (the word ‘accessible’ is doing a lot of work in there), bears down on you as a grotesque parody of dance music that exposes the genre’s heart and soul as machine music.
‘Bombes Of Bletchley’ is a fascinating insight into how code breaking would have sounded and for a few fleeting moments we are practically there amongst them in the heat of creativity. As the machines are switched off and wind down at the end we are returned to our own skins.
It is worth giving special consideration to the closer, ‘Alexander’, which fittingly, has a solemn, funereal air. The weight of Alan Turing’s tragedy is played out against a backdrop where soul and machinery can meet.
A potent testament to Bletchley Park and the work that would change our world.