CD, [walnut + locust], 2006
Many moons ago, Chromium Dioxide tapes were my first step into audiophile geekery and, as I placed this CD in my hi-fi, I fondly recalled my childhood quests to find the best cassette back when it was home-taping that was killing music. As I pressed play, I wondered what may be in store. I thought of William Basinki’s “Disintegration Loops” – rich pastoral loops recorded to analogue tape in the 80s and, 20 years later, transferred to digital as the aged tape dissolved between his fingers. As he transferred the music, he transferred the sounds of decomposition, capturing the death throes of his long-lost melodies.
As the solid sine-tone of Alexandre Pax’s “Sin Die” spewed from my speakers for over 5 minutes, I worried that beyond Basinki’s original loops, perhaps all music had died and no-one had had the thought to tell me. As the rest of the album unfolded, I felt sure this was the case as every song followed the same method – simplistic loops of guitars, twinkling noises, or tense strings interspersed with ‘random’ bursts of harsh analogue feedback and tape noises. Again and again, the feedback noises intensified until they saturated the mix in a mess of clipped static and screeches. The pinnacle was reached by Aube’s “Reel for Reel” which jacked in the melodic loop for a high-pitched whine that made me wonder if I was developing tinnitus.
Just as I was about to phone the florist to arrange my wreath for music’s tombstone – Terminal Sound System kicked off the trilogy of songs that score this compilation its marks. “Mi Clatter” starts with a smooth, jazzy hi-hat and snare beat before erupting into drill ‘n’ bass amidst a flail of scrapes and, finally, settling down into a mellow, glitched track. This is topped by Empusae vs Agathokless’ “Tunnel Visions v2.02”, a sublime piece of deep, haunting atmospherics made up of sweet blips, sweeping pads and an involving rhythm. Chris Carter rounds things up with the cute, Moog-tastic “Birdy Num Num”, brimming with warm blips and bloops that trickle in repeating but evolving patterns.
.cut presents one last pleasant aural kaleidoscope in the melancholy lo-fi of “I Wish July 31st Would Never Come” then it’s back to the pain with the terminally dull tweaked folk of Molasses rounding off the album. I had seldom been happier to hear silence.
The experimental and musique concréte scenes are exploding with a million better artists than the ones showcased here. While you’re researching them, why not pick up one of Empusae’s excellent records and, like me, pretend this CD never happened?
— Christopher Fry