Modulations

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Modulations

Iara Lee's Modulations is less a documentary than a primer on all electronic music. Featuring interviews with nearly every major player past and present, as well as a few energetic live clips, Modulations delves into one of electronica's forgotten facets: the human element. Lee travels the globe from the American Midwest to Europe to Japan to try to express the appeal of music often dismissed as soulless. For the most part, she's successful. By putting a face on any number of trendsetters, from musique concrete pioneer Karl-Heinz Stockhausen to modern masters like Autechre, Lee is like Toto revealing the many men behind a big, mysterious curtain. Modulations shows that behind even the most foreign or alien electronic composition lies a real human being, and Lee lets many of these Frankenstein-like creators express and expound upon their personal philosophies and tech-heavy theories. Of course, the rapid-fire flash-card approach of Modulations may be disorienting to anyone not already familiar with groups like Future Sound Of London or fast-talking spokespersons like Paul "DJ Spooky" Miller, Teo Macero, Tom "Squarepusher" Jenkinson, Arthur Baker, Derrick May, Robert Moog, Alec Empire, Mixmaster Morris, and many others. For that matter, those who do know about all the artists documented may note the absence of interviews with such pivotal names as Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, and Aphex Twin, even though all are frequently name-checked. But Lee's film is less a complete package than it is an intentionally short and dense introduction, indicating that Lee understands that a cultural movement as massive and diverse as dance music can't be contained.

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