Bee Mask: Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico
Spectrum Spools

Fabric: A Sort of Radiance
Spectrum Spools

Not only is A Sort of Radiance the first full-length by Matthew Mullane under the Fabric name, it's also the debut release on the Spectrum Spools label, headed up by Emeralds' John Elliott. The label was set up in collaboration with Editions Mego, but Spectrum Spools is clearly its own unique animal. Designed to feature “current, past and future electronic music works of the highest quality,” the label's inaugural releases are issued in vinyl LP format only (both available in 500-copy editions). Any imprint specializing in contemporary kosmische musik is in itself worthy of attention, and the Fabric and Bee Mask releases don't disappoint.

Packing nine tracks into a svelte thirty-three minutes, the Chicago-based Mullane gets right to the point on his Fabric outing A Sort of Radiance. One finds here well-crafted dreamscaping in the classic kosmische musik tradition, the emphasis less on conventional melodic form and more on mood and texture. It's no noise exercise by any stretch of the imagination, as Mullane catalyses his material into settings that, while hardly wallflowers, are nevertheless easy on the ears. He weaves shorter pieces (“Orange and Red,” a brief teaser of panning pulsations, and the shimmering “Left”) in amongst the longer, with the latter (“Leaving the House,” “Light Float,” “Soft Disconnect”) providing the the most complete impression of the immersive Fabric style. Insistently chugging rhythms underpin some tracks, such as “Leaving the House,” where synthetic showers rain down upon the pulse, and “High Ceilings,” where dental drill noises swoop across the terrain. “Light Float,” on the other hand, escorts the listener on a scenic, eight-minute ride through the upper galaxy. The nine pieces show him to be a natural time traveler capable of updating the analog style of the ‘70s and making it sound fresh all over again. One comes away from the release struck by Mullane's deft balancing hand, with the tracks' myriad elements woven into succinct and carefully modulated wholes.

Chris Madak issued his elaborately titled Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico under the Bee Mask name as a limited-edition cassette on Gift Tapes in 2010, and the release, featuring two fourteen-minute settings recorded in Cleveland and Philadelphia between 2006 and 2010, has now been granted a second life by Spectrum Spools. An ethereal character asserts itself at the outset of “Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico I” when shimmering glass orchestra tones resound before coughing noises bring the material firmly back to earth. Adding to the ever-growing density, waves of synthesizers advance and recede until a bubbling pool of electronics rises like a volcano readying itself to explode. It's at this point that the piece's kosmische dimension moves to the forefront, with sputtering convulsions and pulsations colliding aggressively within the turbulent mix, followed by periodic mutations that turn the piece into a fabulous safari through various electronic jungle settings. Despite the episodic design, the piece nevertheless holds together satisfyingly and gives the impression of having been carefully composed and sequenced. “Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico II” comes to life as a hollowed-out mass of hiss and clatter that then cedes the stage to, firstly, sprinklings of analog synth patterns and, secondly, fluttering drones. Six minutes in, the piece threatens to detonate when a noise blast appears, but the moment passes quickly, leaving a warbling synth melody in its wake. The release's second track goes through numerous such twists and turns during its journey, and the listener is never anything less than engaged. Tangerine Dream-styled argeggios and dramatic noise flourishes surface in equal measure, making the setting feel somewhat like a fusion of relatively accessible ‘70s synthesizer music and rather more experimental fare. In short, the magic carpet rides provided by Fabric and Bee Mask are well worth one's time and trouble.

May 2011