A Cloakroom Assembly: Territory + Population
Endgame Records

From seemingly out of nowhere comes a memorable collection of electroacoustic ambient settings by Australian sound sculptor Michael Tee under the A Cloakroom Assembly guise. Though Tee has been creating music for many decades (he co-founded the M Squared label in 1979 and appeared as A Cloakroom Assembly alongside Patrick Gibson on the 1980 release Too Seperate & Tom Tom Tom), Territory + Population is his debut outing for Endgame, and a good one it is too. Tee's obviously absorbed diverse libraries of music in his time, and much of that comes out in the album's seven settings: one hears traces of Eno-styled ambient, German space rock, Fourth World, and krautrock synthesizer music at various times in tracks Tee generated using treated guitar, keyboards, loops, and field recordings.

One's ear is caught immediately by the opening setting “One Night on Stanwell Park Beach,” a brooding, Eno-esque vista where acoustic piano playing meanders amidst an abundance of synthetic tendrils. “Space Variation” naturally teleports the listener to a distant galaxy where cosmic peals of raw guitar and synthetics mingle with gravel-voiced murmurings. Throughout “Tom Salty,” synthesizer and treated guitars wail at cross-purposes, and one wouldn't be at all surprised if the bleat of Jon Hassell's trumpet were to surface on “Beltane Jzzz,” so reminiscent is it of the electronic Fourth World music Hassell issued on the EG label so many years ago. Similarly, the album's twenty-four-minute centerpiece, “Circa 1958,” could just as easily have appeared on a David Toop album, with the piece exuding a humidity and hypnotic radiance that makes it feel like its shimmering washes are floating in from the tropics. Despite its length, “Circa 1958” doesn't grow tiresome, as Tee never lets things stay in place for long, and the restless material undergoes transformation from start to finish. The title track is long too, but the listener's interest remains engaged when the track's oppressive twilight gloom is lifted by the gradual advent of sunlight. Also noteworthy is the fact that each piece's components were laid down in one take. Recorded on a Mac Powerbook “late at night after the kids had gone to sleep,” Territory + Population exerts the kind of entrancing pull that works most powerfully when one's normal defenses go down during the wee hours.

July 2010