Uncertain Designs

by Modal Voices

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Safety Records 0004
Programming and mixing by Joel Ebner at Safety, Chicago Il.
Mastered by Carl Saff.
Art direction by Joel Ebner.

Tim Hecker's Ravedeath, 1972
Steve Reich's Music For 18 Musicians
Philip Glass' Contrary Motion
Tortoise's "10 Day Interval"

Four projects. Four debut records. Two years.

Joel Ebner, a member of the Chicago music community for nearly a decade, had about as slow of a start as you can imagine. While friends found early successes as productive studio acts and touring musicians, Ebner struggled to create. His first band imploded after just a couple of EPs, while his second band, City States, took over six years to announce its debut album. For most people, making music is fun; for Ebner—who spent almost ten years bound by perfectionism and indecision—it was a slog.

In 2014, however, something changed. A levee cracked open in Ebner's creative mind, and his output skyrocketed seemingly overnight. Following Geography, the debut release by his flagship art-pop project City States, his music-making split into two, then three, then four projects, each made under a distinct name. With Contretemps, Ebner laid the groundwork for exploring his love of ambient and noise. As Avvenir, he took on Autechre-style techno. Now, with the debut Modal Voices record, he's triangulating the melodic, rhythmic, and tonal aspects of his other projects with a novel take on minimalism.

Uncertain Designs, the debut Modal Voices LP, explores the compositional innovations of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Terry Riley, filtered through Merzbow-influenced noise and Tim Hecker-style sound manipulation. Across nine songs that flow together as a single piece using a uniform key and tempo, Uncertain Designs grapples with the tension between construction and collapse, examining the persistent threat of breakdown in the things we build.