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Spool's Out

Spool’s Out: Your Cassette Release Roundup For February
Tristan Bath , February 20th, 2018 01:04

The tape-o-sphere continues to deliver, with a new neo-kraut project from Cairo, a topography of Sydney’s outlying industrial regions, an ambient tribute to Pierre Boulez and some Indonesian experimentalism.

Here’s a recent edition of Spool’s Out Radio that took some time out from special guests and interviews to just play some of the best recent tape releases. There's Crevice, the new Cork-based trio on Fort Evil Fruit crafting the lushest darkwave imaginable, and Paul Marshall's grinding train journey music issued on Dale Cornish's new Vanity Publishing imprint, and the latest beat tape by Warsaw producer Fischerle, issued on Pointless Geometry and dripping with psychedelic colours.

Head over to spools-out.com, or the Resonance FM website to find out more about the show. This episode and others can still be streamed in full via the above, as well as via podcast.

Tarkamt - Live at the Necropolis (Doom Trip Records)

Tarkamt is a project by Cairene musician Cherif El Masri. He’s an Egyptian guitar player, a member of The Invisible Hands (with Alan Bishop), and has been a member of Nadah El Shazly’s live band - but that won’t provide much in the way of preparation for his solo debut as Tarkamt. Firstly, obviously, Live At The Necropolis ain’t no live album. It’s a trippy journey through noise, jazz, beats, psychedelia… all sorts really, jammed together into an oddly user-friendly gumbo. There’s a guest appearance from singer Sammy Sayed on two tracks, plus Alan Bishop contributes a scarring and grinding alto sax solo to ‘Et Sic Infinitum’, which starts its life as a cosy motorik groover before Alan comes along and tears it all apart. ‘Churning The Ocean of Milk’ is a real oddity: a Merzbow-ian deep noise track, whirring through an oblivion of static for seven mental minutes. A SimpleText computer voice sings along to another krauty rocker on ‘Death Takes A Vacation’, El Masri swapping shards of jagged noise into a position where a guitar solo clearly would’ve otherwise been. The spiralling psych wig out of ‘The Harbinger’ closes the album, with El Masri finally slipping into a lead vocalist role and stretching out for a finale. The drum machines across the record lend the persistent pulses a eery robotic tone, while there’s a constant fuzz behind every track, leaving almost no spare space anywhere on the record. There are shards of traditional psychedelia in the guitar twangs, and it often grooves, but Live At The Necropolis is a psychedelic kraut noise outing not quite like anything you’ve heard before.

MP Hopkins - Aeroplanes & Puddles (mappa)

On Aeroplanes & Puddles, Australian field recordist and soundmaker MP Hopkins takes aim at the gross short-sightedness of urban overdevelopment, and pays tribute to the “non-human face of resistance”. The key field recordings at the heart of these two quarter-hour pieces were made in an industrial area in the Inner West of Sydney, close to Sydenham Train station, positioned directly underneath a noisy flight path. This, plus the area’s tendency to flood, has kept the virus of luxury apartment blocks from infecting the area, leaving a sparse post-industrial landscape, punctuated by the roar of landing planes.

These aren’t just plain topographical field recordings though. Hopkins has layered, edited, and sculpted the pieces, and added snippets of bedroom recording experiments - a short weep of a synth, or an additional deep bass drone - and periodically intones his own poetic thoughts over the mix. Hopkins’ words are at their most jagged describing the putrid capitalists who would wish to buy stuff in the region: “A wealthy cavemen / suckled on slogans.” After side one closes with the dramatic arrival of a jet plane, side two’s 15-minute suite quickly makes use of more visible seams and edits from Hopkins. The splashing of water and groan of distant planes is met with atonal buzzes and electronic interjections. The tape closes with a blissful quiet buzz and the hum of the outdoors. Hopkins is a total master of the well-crafted sonic diary, and considering its sparse sound and cold source material, Aeroplanes & Puddles is a surprisingly warm and emotional journey - a radio play starring tarmac, wind and jet engines.

Wim Dehaen - 12 Elegies For Pierre Boulez / Ústí OST (ACR)
& Cinchel - A Sad Study in Temporal Dissonance (Patient Sounds)

French composer Pierre Boulez died in 2016, leaving a trail of brashness and tonal complexity. He spoke about music in the kind of dogmatic tones that piss off people on all sides of the academic musical spectrum - he called Verdi “stupid, stupid, stupid”, described the Paris Opera as “full of dust and crap” and declared any conservative civilisation as “one that will decay”. Quite how to pay tribute to a composer who’d probably find the very idea extremely conservative and off-putting is hard to say. Prague-based Belgian artist Wim Dehaen manages a decent job though on his 12 Elegies For Pierre Boulez, while Chicago drone maker Cinchel inadvertently captures a similar spirit on A Sad Study in Temporal Dissonance. It’s almost like transliterating cubism into sound, spaghettifying ideas of rhythm, melody, and timbre into a calculated musical web. Essentially, marrying dissonance to entropy has been noise music’s greatest mistake.

The twelve titular miniatures Dehaen created in tribute to Pierre Boulez are (naturally) inherently similar. They are all under two minutes, and several slide in under the one minute mark, flaring up and disappearing like mayflies. The source material is tough to make out, sounding like a paulstretched orchestra or perhaps a backwards masked synth, buried in atonal clusters of notes and drifting along without rhythm. However, despite the harsh horror movie tonality, the texture of the creaky short tracks is decidedly pleasant. The flipside of the tape contains a single ten minute collage of music Dehaen made for a film by Czech filmmaker Lukáš Janičík, opening up his pallette to more organ tones, standard major and minor chords, plus some heavenly grainy synth sounds warmly looping. The music drifts free of culture and devoid of almost all musical standards. Boulez, I think, would have been pleased.

Maybe it seems odd to pair Cinchel’s latest effort with Dehaen’s. Cinchel’s loop pedal music builds ambient guitar stacks of the kind Windy & Carl and a thousand other home recorders have cranked out for ages, stretching out for five-to-ten minutes at a time, often settling into blissful locked grooves. Yet Jason Shanley’s piece eschew traditional approaches to rhythm and melody, while still never veering into outright noise or abstraction.

The oceanic bob of this music inserts an element of ghostly rhythm, just out of sight but constantly tilting your stomach left and right, while Cinchel’s guitar notes and leering drones slowly assemble like the birth of a coral reef. Check out ‘4708 Meals’, where an atonal drone jars against lush keyboard notes and strands of guitar ambience for six minutes. The musical chaos of ‘Movement Without Aging’ functions similarly, with Cinchel providing plenty of melodic signposts such as harmony and rhythm, only all at once and in direct opposition. Despite working very differently, both Cinchel and Dehaen craft beauty from dissonance.

Eye Make The Horizon - Instant Flash (Eggs In Aspic)

This group from Stockholm appear to have started life as a free-rock trio in 2015 comprising old friends from the Swedish psych scene. Their eureka moment came a year into the group’s existence when they invited double bass player Mats Dimming along for a jam, turning Eye Make The Horizon not only into a quartet, but weaving jazzier colours into a free-rock mould. It might seem superficial to describe the arrival of Dimming and his double bass as ushering the group into jazzier territory (guitarist Gustav Nygren was already periodically switching to saxophone by the way), but the difference between this (their first physical release) and the original trio’s earlier digital releases is damn stark.

The ostinato melodic lines and rich colour of the double bass definitely rounds out the punkier edge of the twin guitars and drummer, conjoining spiritual jazz and improvised rock vibes. The opening title track is the best example, replete with some shaken hand percussion in the opening bars. Despite the group’s direct historical connection to psych bands (notably Kungens Män, who also have a tape out on the Newcastle-based Eggs In Aspic label), this music is closer to Sonny Sharrock than any LSD-fuelled Träd, Gräs & Stenar jam. In particular, ‘Balance of Frequencies’ resembled the late Mr Sharrock, with an insanely wailing guitar aria leading the way into the void, cutting out Hendrixian histrionic slashes in the air while his bandmates scurry behind in a bebop conga line. Naturally the proceedings end with a 20-minute sidelong epic, taking the scenic route from drifting cosmic space towards a bluesy final crescendo. Fans of Pharoah Sanders’ Karma and Ash Ra Tempel alike will find plenty to dig here.

Mahesa Almeida - A LT O/P A N (Hasana Editions)

This newly revived label from Badung, Indonesia (a city some 150km south-east of Jakarta) boasts some really stellar design. It’s clean, crisp and functional in the way noisy out-there experimentalism so often isn’t, and for that matter so’s the sound on this tape. Mahesa Almeida has already notably been part of a split on Indonesian label Tandem Tapes, and previously worked with his wife in an A/V duo called Kracoon, but this A LT O/P A N feels like his first complete statement as a solo musician. He’s described as a "video game connoisseur" in his bio, and these two trundling sidelong instrumentals purportedly take inspiration from the golden age of video arcades. Quite how remains unclear, although the flickering of what sounds like wooden sticks on ‘A LT O’ could almost be foley for the clicking of plastic buttons in a busy arcade. Elsewhere, snail-slow submersible beats arise, bitcrushed like an eternally glitched Donkey Kong and framed by murky minor key drones.

Almeida somehow imbues passages of random bleeps with heavily weighted emotional meaning. Economic with space, what inches are taken up are pregnant with colour and feeling. The jangle of metal percussion on the second side feels ritualistic - even though it’s probably just a saucepan being toyed with on the kitchen floor. This is strange, alien electronics, and despite its minimalism possesses large doses of woozy emotional might.

Various Artists - First Terrace Records: Compilation 2 (First Terrace)

This compilation marks one year of activity from the First Terrace records label, which has comprised a small handful of tapes and LPs of universally high quality atmospherics. In the age of information overload, a well poised, thoughtfully curated, and suitably varied compilation holds unique power over listeners. Pan’s Mono No Aware from last year is an ace example, plonking the label’s network of ambient electronic family members into a wax idea-sharing session. First Terrace Records: Compilation 2 does a brilliant job of cementing the label’s identity, and gets together a downright impressive array of eye-catching names, including Editions Mego’s Chra, Dutch sound maestro Machinefabriek, Vancouver-based guitarist/trumpet C Diab and London-based percussionist Rupert Clervaux. While the 13 tracks on Compilation 2 jump around from style to style - Moroccan producer Sukitoa O Namau’s contribution of noisy synth bass hell and post-rave handclaps gives way to an eerily beautiful bowed-guitar heavy post-rockstrumental from C Diab - they’re all emotionally conjoined. First Terrace’s music is contemplative without being truly poignant, and it’s slow without being sedate.

Rupert Clervaux presents a poem spoken over a bed of jingling vibraphones, which slowly dovetail from peaceful repetition into glitching samples and harsher loops. Chra’s ‘Red Robin’ is a headrush of bas rumbles flying past the listener in myriad directions, interlocking into something oddly peaceful despite its brashness. The 68 minute compilation closes with a piece by Puerto Rican composer Angélica Negrón backed up with the Brooklyn-based Janus Trio (harp, flute, viola), slotting in beautifully alongside the many synth rumbles and processed samples elsewhere on the record. Last year the label issued a choir project by Peter Broderick, the excellent Beacon Sound Choir LP Sunday Songs. There’s a parallel to be made with Compilation 2, as myriad disciplines and musical skill levels assemble to create minor miracles in harmony.

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