CD, Bip-Hop, 2004
Sometimes you hear an album that makes you regret the sad inadequacy of your listening environment and wish you had the peace and quiet to pay it the attention it deserves. And then there are those that come up against the immersive ambient noise of the city around you and just can’t compete. Which category the new Eastley/Toop album falls into is, I’m sure, very much a matter of opinion. In either case, a desk by an open window onto a main road on a windy day is not the ideal place to take in the finer points of detail and texture to be found in this CD.
As the first of fifteen tracks, “Mouthful of Silence”, gets going, we are enveloped in drones and a solitary sine wave while something chittery and abrasive scuttles around out of sight. A police siren outside the window hails the arrival of some oddly organic creations that sound rather like electronic pigs; the staccato bursts of noise on “Bandaged Moments” begin to play some sort of call-and-response game with the car horns of passing drivers. “Cardiomancy”, appropriately, brings in a rhythm, a pulsing metallic undulation that would struggle to be called a beat.
And so it continues, in the same kind of vein. Listening at night is slightly more successful from the point of view of clarity, and more suited to the atmosphere, but the combined hard drives and fan sounds of three PCs and an old-fashioned Ethernet hub still give our ambient heroes a run for their money, and I am forced to make a conscious effort to type quietly. The bassy rumbles on “Nights, Demixed, Circles” underscore all this with a somewhat more effective aura of menace, and the menagerie of scraping sounds and pizzicato twangs on “Three Sand Voices” have enough presence to make themselves more consciously apparent. More volume helps a bit but the tenuous, insubstantial nature of the production limits the usefulness of cranking up the amp — these are more like fleeting apparitions than instruments — and besides, the occasional squeals of feedback and wooden percussive reports might wake my girlfriend.
If you don’t mind the restrictiveness of headphones or like your music subliminal, then this might be for you. Issues of audibility aside however, I am not convinced that there is enough in the way of dramatic tension here either. “Metamorphoses of Tabanus Bovinis” and “Graphite in Prussic” achieve a kind of sonorous eeriness, but much of the CD creeps past unmemorably, leaving behind just some oddly-shaped footprints and a faint smell of self-indulgence. And Toop’s accompanying prose passage is, in all honesty, somewhat twee. Stick to the day job please.
That said, I would very much like to see this performed live; I suspect Eastley’s mechanical sound sculptures and Toop’s ‘organic matter’ noise sources might supply a much-needed point of focus. On CD however the process must take a back seat to the effectiveness of the results, and here “Doll Creature” is lacking.
— Andrew Clegg