19 February 2017


midnight circles 2017, edition of ?

"eight pieces that build heavily upon looped sounds – piano passages, machinelike rumbles, noises of defective analogue tape, scratches and dust. While some of these recordings are coated in layers of distortion, others are arranged with a distinctive amount of reverb and hall. In these pieces piano loops can be heard that seem distant as though they were only playing for themselves, thoughtless about any accidental listener who might be near... lo-fi in nature, with high-pitched tape-hiss, sudden rattles and aging cassette-material adding to an often melancholic atmosphere. The noticeable repetition within each part of this recording is thereby far from begin stale or monotonous; it seemingly slows time, concentrated on only a couple of notes which move through wide rooms, disappear and then slowly come back. It is because of this repetition that 'Birch' as a whole feels like a circle with no explicit beginning or end. Instead it is meant to be played over and over again, like those piano-loops that would have gone on forever if the tape had not been stopped. Non-notebook-speakers are recommended." - MIDNIGHT CIRCLES

"A charming exploration in the world of disintegrated sounds. Clay is a composer and sound artist from Ohio now based in San Francisco, drawing upon elements of American folklore, genealogy, art education, children's theater, improvisation, digital media and everything in between to make music. Gorlen is an experimental musician living in San Francisco. He produces music and noise using junk, found tapes, and home made cassette loops." - CANTI MAGNETICI (as part of their label write up for BRITTLE)

i feel like i remember hearing this in passing a while back - perhaps a temporary digital release via GORLEN's CASCADING FRAGMENTS now physically manifested, but i can only find a trace of it on soundcloud with "birch viii" apparently existing since august 2015 so i guess maybe that's what i previously perused and BIRCH has been waiting in the wings all this time or else backlogged in MIDNIGHT CIRCLES' queue - in any case, here it is, to hold and behold

BIRCH is the best yet from C&G, a stone cold masterpiece encapsulating the best this glorious collaborative entity has to offer, legendary -separately and together- around here well before this tape came along - this is the fourth C&G recommendation - their entire cassette catalog has been highlighted here over past two years - a stunning collage like debut and MMM SOUND standout LIGHT THROUGH LEAVES [REC #10], patchworked longform loop disintegration in CASCADING FRAGMENTS' CONCH [REC #43] and full realization of collaborative potential in CANTI MAGNETICI's BRITTLE [REC #142] which made my top five tapes of 2016 (and previously CLAY and GORLEN locked up my #1 and #2 tapes of 2015 respectively)

previous metaphoric blurbs still apply - "woosh and crackle of worn out tape are strangely alluring accompaniment for warbly minimalist piano variations and sparse synth passages like BASINSKI disintegrating SATIE and BLADE RUNNER" and "synth-on-damaged-tape bliss like a warped and worn out copy of ENO's APOLLO" as they return to brief collage form with only three of eight tracks passing the four minute mark - if BRITTLE was more GORLEN-centric or else "a complete mind meld" as i contended, then BIRCH is a more distinct sum of its parts with CLAY's styling more prominent, as elegantly established by last year's understated vinyl debut STILLS (unfortunately i was unable to issue a proper recommendation), with these intimate modern classical ambient loops of wistful "furniture music" providing a structural backbone of sorts with which CLAY and GORLEN delicately and intricately tinker - ethereal atmospherics, subtle layers, grainy textures, warbly tones, even a little white hot distortion - adorned and masterfully manipulated into one of the finest works of new weird american drone music i've ever heard, with approximate contemporary comparison to favored artists like AMULETS, LOST TRAIL and SKITTISH ARM, but like them C&G are way out there on their own in that ever expanding universe

back in 2015 i stated about GORLEN- "without question he is making some of the most compelling ambient music out there right now" - that is still true to my ears, with CLAY now deserving the same accolade, both as an equal partner in this endeavor and in his own right - i know it's only february but good lord i can't fathom a better tape finding me this year