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Spool's Out

Spool's Out: Cassette Reviews For March By Tristan Bath
Tristan Bath , March 21st, 2016 07:38

Tristan Bath is back covering essential releases by Gazelle Twin's label and Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides (live photo by Lorenzo Palmieri), not to mention his latest Spool’s Out Radio session

A recent highlight on the weekly Spool’s Out radio show on London’s Resonance FM, was a guest mix from stellar artist in his own right plus co-founder of Seagrave Records, Blood Room. The playlist included a dense blend of older school electronics including Autechre, with newer heroes like Graham Dunning, Broshuda, and Hieroglyphic Being. The episode can still be streamed in full via the above.

Various Artists - Annual General Meeting Record (Vol. 1)
(Anti-Ghost Moon Ray)

Brightonian label Anti Ghost Moon Ray should be on the radar of any dedicated tQ readers as it’s the label of Gazelle Twin (who produced the site's album of 2014), in addition to pop experimentalist Bernholz, and exceptionally dark indie band Great Pagans. As the title might suggest though, Annual General Meeting Record (Vol. 1) is the first of what the label promises to be annual compilation releases from a variety of label artists and guests, with all the proceeds going to different charities. This year, proceeds are going to Médecins Sans Frontières. Well if the world’s most deserving charity isn’t enough to tease a few quid out of your pocket immediately, then the uniformly excellent contents of the tape should.

Icily shaded waves of instrumental electronica make up much of the running time, with a well balanced handful of diversions thrown in for good measure. It opens with a five-and-a-half minute maze of thudding beats, piercing tones, and arpeggiated minor key melodies from long-serving UK electronic artist Benge. It’s so utterly perfect as to render every one of the thousands of dudes fiddling with modular synths from Brooklyn to Shoreditch now obsolete. Berlin-based producer Ausschuss’ track stands out too, punctuating choirs with sound effects of smashes, crashes, and general clatter, while Hamburg-based Nika Son pairs gothic serrated synth lines with manipulated field recordings. There’s a new Gazelle Twin track halfway through side two as well; a sustained moment of oddly cosy tension titled ‘Outer Body’, littered with skittered distance percussion taps. A dubby sense of distance between the real world and the processed recordings, in particular the washes of Gazelle Twin’s echoey voice, make it a much more haunted affair than the sheerer physicality of Unflesh. There’s plenty more highlights throughout Annual General Meeting Record, including enigmatic Brighton singer Cardinal Fang, who closes the album with a sort of Chris & Cosey styled industrial pop song. A personal favourite moment has to be the chilling ‘Disquiet’ by Alex Painter (of the aforementioned Great Pagans), where a crowning luminescent bed of sound gives way to vacant space, achingly filled out with a mysterious lone woodwind voice. This isn’t just a great sampler - each of these 12 artists is definitely well worth checking out - but the charity couldn’t be more deserving. In short, this tape’s easily the best way to spend your pocket money this month.

Country Florist - CF-3
(Drawing Room Records)

The third in Andrew Morgan’s CF trilogy for Drawing Room Records sees the project that began life as an American lo fi rock response to New Zealand’s fuzzy underground mutating into strange homemade disco. Guitars are mostly switched for old school pads and squelchy keyboard leads, and the drum machines are now clearer and groovier, hinting at that key eighties crossover point between disco and house. Tracks such as the excellent ditty ‘Pleasure’ even make great use of some tightly sampled drum kit beats. The best moments of the album however, are those that blend Country Florist’s multiple personalities. ‘This Is Marketplace’ for example, has a fuzzed out blissful guitar ride across a bed of snappy drum machines and piano-hop samples, while ‘Bend The Boards’ deploys wonky Radiophonic Workshop melodies over a snappy groove. Several of the dozen or so tracks are a tad overlong, and the entire release could perhaps trim off a handful of the more minimal and repetitive tracks and lose nothing. As it stands though, CF-3 is a hugely fun collection of grooves that’ll appeal to both fans of Michael Morley’s Gate project and Juan Atkins alike.

Wander - Kat Gat Sea
(Wounded Knife)

Out on Warsaw’s wonderfully crisp and cleanly realised Wounded Knife imprint, this tape by Italian minimal folk duo Wander stares deep into that great dark void, and finds comfort. Vincenzo De Luce and Matteo Tranchesi are for the most part an acoustic guitar duo, with the former occasionally reaching for a processed trumpet or other odd sound source, and the latter at times switching to an unrecognisably warped electric guitar. While the nucleus of Kat Gat Sea remains an instrumental excursion into occidental folk, it swiftly snakes its way into some darker, stranger, and disconcertingly spacious recesses. It’s much like the concrète-oriented leanings of Fahey’s Takoma sect, their more direct descendants like Gastr del Sol, or most of all the many acoustic duo works by Japanese guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama. The strings of the guitars seem to stretch and skew, like Tetsuo's sickening bodily mutations in Akira, twisting out of shape, and blurring into the synthetic drones and processed sounds and recordings that quietly fog up the vacant space on tracks like ‘For The Time Remaining’ or ‘Into The Flood’. Tranchesi’s electric guitar appears almost heroically on finale ‘Black Powder’, like Sergio Leone’s unnamed hero, closing out this brilliant album of avant-not-really-at-all-folk with a feeling of uncertain security.

AJ Cornell & Tim Darcy - Too Significant to Ignore
&
Jake Meginsky - Seven Psychotropic Sinewave Palindromes
(NNA Tapes)

Both based in the consistently fruitful city of Montreal, Andrea-Jane Cornell is a highly original soundmaker and improviser with a history of notable collaborations, and Tim Darcy is the frontman of the Constellation label’s most recent success story, Ought. Cornell’s soundscapes are uniformly interesting, mostly sounding little like anything else (besides a few other Canadian sound sculptors in fact - Le Révélateur, Loscil, and Tim Hecker amongst them). There’s the droning church-organs and wine glass sine waves of the title track, or the slowly encompassing hiss of ‘Automatic Ecstasy’. Apart from a couple of instrumentals though, her job is to back up Tim Darcy’s ‘existential poetry’, which tackles 21st century urban depression in the manner of the 20th century beat poets. The subject matter is at times thoroughly engaging, and at others a bit similar to the hodge podge wisdom of Mr. Miyagi ("It isn’t worth it any more, but it is"). His drawl also remains at times a bit too reminiscent of Mark E Smith, albeit with all that lovely rusty irony scrubbed away. Anybody not quickly put off by Darcy’s style of delivery though will find the entire tape thoroughly compelling.

Massachusetts-based percussionist/composer Jake Meginsky has released several meditative slabs of music before, including a tape for brilliant UK imprint Mantile. This tape features a single twenty minute composition repeated on both sides, wonderfully titled ‘Seven Psychotropic Sinewave Palindromes’. It’s a classically experimental piece, rigidly limiting its palette only to sine waves, square waves, white noise, and an 808 kick drum, but the results are a consistently intriguing - not to mention quite painful on the ears - dose of energy. There are passages populated by throbbing shards of bass and sine, and the brutal pummelling wet punches of that kick drum. The elements are all in constant motion, rarely droning for very long and often shuffling around the place manically. Were a footwork remix of Phill Niblock’s deepest tones called into existence, it wouldn’t be far off sounding something like this.

Yellow Hyper Balls - Transi
(Always Human Tapes)

This tape marks the 50th release on Always Human Tapes, the imprint of artist Ryan Wurst from Denver, Colorado. It’s a slab of rhythmic sounds by Wurst’s own Yellow Hyper Balls project, a nom de plume nabbed from a track from Merzbow’s classic Pulse Demon. While the demon has been somewhat tamed in Wurst’s work though, the pulse remains vitally intact. Wurst shapes unidentifiable recordings and noises into pulsating rhythmic figures before cranking up some beats, sprinkling some hi hats on top, and at points fully abandoning this whole soundscape malarky in favour of good old acid house. Imagine Klara Lewis’ Ett reconfigured into something sickly danceable. Wurst’s got a gift for perfectly timing his trips over a 4/4 pulse, and his grab bag of source material for the massively varied soundscapes around the pulse make for some compelling listening. Check out the sloppily carved up snippets of tinkling background noise and drones on ‘For No Man’ to discover some truly odd beauty. As it’s the label’s 50th release, they’ve been kind enough to put the digital version up for free - go get it while you can.

Ben Vince - The Purge
(The Blank Tapes)

Saxophonist Ben Vince deploys his Tenor into chambers of reverb in much the same manner as the likes of Julianna Barwick or Liz Harris do with their voices. The results are warm and comforting; the proverbial angels to Colin Stetson’s unwieldy demons. On each of the ten songs Vince layers a few overlapping tracks of sax, sometimes quite audibly snipped into loops (‘This Too Shall Pass’), and occasionally swept through modulation effects to create the odder voices heard on ‘In Range’. It’s hard not to imagine the isolated sax track from Blade Runner’s Love Theme on some of the sweeter moments (‘Flotation’). Ultimately though, the sheer attack of ten pieces that are almost solely for tenor sax and reverb, lilting around in fluffy high end clouds, feels like firmly unexplored territory. Considering the maturity of his abilities, it’s pretty nuts that this is Vince’s debut recording. One gets the inkling that his approach is going to develop quite dramatically as his physical abilities open up new doorways, but for now The Purge is a formidable opening statement.

Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides - Aulos' Second Reed
(Tombed Visions)
&
Oh Sylvia
(Sacred Tapes)

The stars aligned last month, and two of this column’s very favourite labels came together to concurrently release an album each by Manchester’s most powerful and mind-altering improv project. The duo of flautist Kelly Jayne Jones and percussionist Pascal Nichols named their outfit perfectly, referring to an obscure Tai Chi move. In fact they’re perhaps even selling themselves short - one can hardly imagine anything as calm and graceful as the way these two play. It’s deep and dank and tribal, making hefty use of vast open space and silence between Jones’ suggestive slow flute notes and Nichols’ meditative sparse percussion. There’s a sense of ritualistic dialogue akin to various East Asian traditional dances and theatres (Tombed Visions specifically notes the similarities to Japanese kabuki), but the handful of found sounds sprinkled throughout hint at something else. The first side of Aulos' Second Reed snakes its way around the sound of running water, bringing to mind a twisted abstract view of natural landscapes, somewhat akin to Werner Herzog’s Fata Morgana.

While Aulos' Second Reed is a re-release of an LP originally put out by Bennifer Editions, while Sacred Tapes’ Oh Sylvia is an entirely new sound piece that ventures into some newer territory for the duo. Side one opens to cut-up and reshaped speech samples, woozy and ghostly like snippets of EVP. Slowly the piece ushers itself into a more open space filled with heftily reverbed percussion, and Jones’ screeching flute appears high above like bird of prey in silhouette. The atmosphere is hazy and dense, and thick enough to cut with a butter knife (or perhaps more aptly a katana). It also seems quite literally visible in some photos taken at the duo’s recent Milan gig by Lorenzo Palmieri. Side two carves out some ear-tickling drones, blurring the boundaries between bowed/ scraped percussion and blown woodwind. Utterly spellbinding, this is some of the most effective trip music ever committed to tape. Look to La Monte Young’s recently reissued Dream House 78′ 17″ to find this incredible music’s ancestry. (The duo were also interviewed on The Quietus back in 2014, which can be read here.

Thousand Foot Whale Claw - Cosmic Winds
(Constellation Tatsu)

The now legendary innings of America’s greatest Kosmische group Emeralds never quite inspired enough trios and quartets of clever nerdy folk to get together to make beautiful synthetic vibes across the midwest. Most of said folk seem to have invested in modulars and a ticket to Berlin. So the spaced out music of this quartet from Austin, Texas is hugely welcome. There’s something about the mechanics of coalescing several people at once, of criss crossing guitar jacks and keyboard cables, that seems to make this music function so much more potently. Tangerine Dream themselves were never better than that very early-70s peak, when they were carting around guitars and percussion along with those keyboard stacks the size of a small hospital. The excellent Cosmic Winds demonstrates admirable levels of sonic restraint by the group, and an invaluable ability to balance their tools’ abilities to create washes of abstract windy noise with a bountiful stream of blissful melodies. It manages to be not as cheesily melodic as latter day pieces by Edgar Froese, and also not as outright noisy as the likes of My Cat Is An Alien. They only venture past the eight minute mark for the title track, managing to instil their states of cosmic bliss in briefer timeframes than many of their peers and contemporaries. ‘Hyugens’ is a highlight on side two as well, expertly deploying a Kraftwerkian metronomic beat for an outright groovy number. Brilliant!

BRIE - BREI
(Kitchen Leg Records)

This fantastic trio from Dresden take the constituent pieces of shattered punk that got randomly reassembled into No Wave, and choose rather to build them into intensely clever, and at times quite emotional post-punk clatter. There’s twangy clean electric guitars, rigid basslines, and clattering drum lines aplenty, but it’s never as random as DNA, not as propulsive as The Feelies, nor as mired in darkness as Slint. Somehow though, it hints at them all. ‘Nachtmilch’ is a dour instrumental journey from depression to anger, while ‘gehacktes’ is a more throbbing weirdo sort of jam, surfing odd effects and noises over a very Louisville bassline. ‘Klack Klack’ plays a similar trick, seemingly leaping between energetic jamming and sparser sections of beats littered with random 8-bit gameboy sounds. The names suggest this isn’t much more than a souped up demo tape (‘Hip Hop’, ‘Screambo’), but either way it’s one of the most original and brilliant bits of open-ended punk music going right now. Can’t wait to see where they go next.

K. Fenrir - Drifting Towards the End
(FALK)

While this excellent Reykjavik tape label’s other release this month - featuring mysterious and legendary Icelandic figure Harry Knuckles - is well worth investing in, the gravitational pull of this album’s sense of dark ambient ritualism is near-impossible to escape from. K. Fenrir has a respectable bandcamp page sporting several deep dark excursions into black ambience and noise. The haunted vocalisations and epic sense of space on Drifting Towards The End is exceptional though, and seems to better embody that ‘edge of the world’ sensibility than almost any other Icelandic release in memory. The album’s description rightly namechecks H.P. Lovecraft’s In The Mountains Of Madness, with the slow rumbling low end of opener ‘Floating Amongst Giants’ practically sounding like the terrifying Yawn of Cthulhu itself. Side one’s three briefer tracks (6-8 mins long apiece) feature clunky distant field recordings, rain-like sounds, and deep monster like narration, all of which is scary enough, but side two’s sole 20-minute piece ‘Ragnarök’ employs all that came before to craft something special. Guest vocalist Nekron channels Malefic’s performance from within a locked casket on Sunn O)))’s Black One, seemingly broadcasting from the abyss itself while K. Fenrir summons a slow marching synthetic demon orchestra. The sense of imminent dread is perhaps unmatched.

Broder - Under den Jydske Fane
(It Was Gnarled)

A collaboration between Danish brothers Erik and Jesper Hviid, Broder make a truly soaring brand of intensely heavy doom, out on Copenhaegn’s It Was Gnarled. The pair of ten minute tracks on Under den Jydske Fane, seems to tell the brief tale of an execution, with side one’s ‘Kællingehøj’ soundtracking the slow walk to the gallows, and side two’s ‘Galgebjerg’ embodying, in the band’s words, "brutal gut ripping truth at the end of the noose". Both sides showcase some insanely heavy slow riffs, with the drumless ‘Kællingehøj’ integrating synth choirs akin to Popol Vuh’s Aguirre score, and ‘Galgebjerg’ adding brutalised drum kit and screams. Hypnotic, powerful, and dank as hell, this some of the finest and heaviest doom out on tape for a while. A full length is purportedly in the works too.

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