56K: Generations Lost
Notice Recordings

Windmill • Waterwheel: Waterwheel • Windmill
Notice Recordings

In my experience at least, recordings issued on cassette often possess a free-form experimentalism that's heard to a lesser degree on more conventional CD or digital download releases. It's almost as if the artist, realizing beforehand that the cassette will reach a larger number of fringe listeners than it would otherwise, regards the format as an opportunity to unleash his/her more explorative side.

Windmill • Waterwheel's Waterwheel • Windmill is as good an example as any, even if its history is more unusual than most such projects. It was actually recorded in 1997 by Kirk Marrison (Fibreforms, Kiln) and NYC guitarist Charlie Nash (Arsenal/Rhys Chatham), who collaborated on two releases slated for Alley Sweeper Records. The first was released, but the disintegration of the label left the second on the shelf—until now. The material is certainly solid enough, with Marrison merging his talent for sound-sculpting with Nash's inventive guitar-generated contributions. The cassette's six “soundforms” (Marrison and Nash's own word) often play like slightly more dissonant sketches recorded for some hypothetical Kiln release. Abrasive guitar textures (the instrument both prepared and played) and a variety of other noises (scrapes, croaks, horns, etc.) are often joined by shuffling rhythm bases on the recording, which backs five pieces on side A with a single long one on B and has been made available in an edition of 100 copies.

Echoes of Kiln surface immediately when the opening piece, “Line,” drapes guitar scrapes and other noises o'ertop a lulling, Kiln-styled rhythm, and a similar echo arises later on side A when a hazy hooting motif huffs and puffs alongside a similarly chugging Kiln groove. There's a generous range of exploration: while one experimental setting is dominated by fiery guitar shards, another grounds its abstract noise convulsions with a conventional blend of acoustic guitar picking and shuffling drums. Sounding rather like a nocturnal field recording captured at a wildlife sanctuary, side B's “Heavywater (D2O)” presents a series of combustible episodes filled with groans, snufflings, bell strikes, and a plethora of other alien chatter, with a warm electronic presence appearing midway through to lend some semblance of normalcy to the proceedings.

The more placid of the two releases, Generations Lost features six pieces by 56K, a new project by Josh Burke who's issued synth-based tape material under a number of names, including Sky Limousine, Ocean Diamond, and Silk Fountain. Also available in an edition of 100 copies, the cassette release features enough whooshes, washes, and sequencer patterns to keep any synth-obsessed fanatic happy, whether it be the pulsating streams animating “No Reflection” or the slow-motion splendour of the time-suspending epic “A Dream Within A Dream,” as graceful an example of synthesizer swirl as one might possibly encounter. Side B picks up where the other leaves off by opening with the also-serene sub-aquatics of “The Invisible Clock” before moving onto the labyrinthine, neon-lit burblings of the title track and the humid ambient calm of the closer “Angel.” Burke's synth-heavy dreamscapes go down easily no matter what time of the day their iridescent colours flood the room.

April 2012