Scissors And Sellotape: …For the Tired And Ill At Ease

Scissors And Sellotape is a relatively new guise for John McCaffrey, who's best known as the man behind the Part Timer curtain though he's also issued material under the Upward Arrows name and as one-half of electronica duo Clickits. … For the Tired And Ill At Ease …, McCaffrey's fully realized, forty-three minute follow-up to an eponymous 2009 debut on Cotton Goods, is thematically rooted in its atheist creator's fascination with the still-firm grip theology has on people and with their tendency to gravitate to it as a source of meaning and succour. There's a rather caustic tone to the song titles that reveals McCaffrey's true feelings on the subject, specifically that finding refuge in religious belief amounts to self-delusion and wishful thinking, even if his fascination is tinged with a kind of begrudging recognition of belief's seductiveness and appeal.

Having issued material on Moteer, Mobeer, Flau, Under The Spire, and Lost Tribe Sound under the aforesaid guises, McCaffrey knows his way around this sort of electronic production territory as well as anyone. In this case, he drew upon three hours worth of piano (the primary instrument) and organ (a source for bass notes) recordings captured at St Mary's Church in Thornbury, Melbourne and then, in keeping with the Scissors And Sellotape name, liberally edited, re-shaped, re-sampled, and stretched the material until the album reached its final, eleven-track form. In fact, McCaffrey has manipulated the originating materials so dramatically the piano sounds positively submerged, as if it was recorded underwater. The normally distinct notes of the piano are rendered fluid and liquidy, as if they're bleeding into the sounds around them, which in turn makes for an overall gauzy and dreamlike ambiance. It's no surprise, then, that the music is graceful, the mood dream-like, and the tempos slow and ponderous—a combination conducive to meditation, reflection, and mental drift that proves potent, no matter the precise nature of one's religious orientation.

Faint traces of the external world emerge within the spaces between the piano cascades and electronic flickerings on “My Sympathies Go Out to You,” a move that lends the song a real-world context and gives it an organic character that makes the music all the more affecting. A subtle colourist, McCaffrey augments the core material with dashes of field recordings and strings (courtesy of Tom Hill) on pieces such as “A Round of Applause Please” and “A Simple ‘I Know How You Feel',” where the ghostly strains of violins are glimpsed alongside the stately, slow-motion flow of the piano, and on “Join the Club,” where voices add a humanizing element. On “Healing Touch” (included on the Fluid/Hibernate compilation Kanshin), hushed voice fragments (their cut-up quality making them resemble chants in a foreign tongue), thick vinyl crackle, string warble, and piano meld into a hypnotic flow. Plaintive and plangent piano-based settings of immense calm are in plentiful supply on the collection, and Facture has pulled out all the stops in the presentation of the release: only 200 copies have been made available in a physical format and the hand-numbered, stamped, and sealed limited edition includes a vinyl copy, letterpressed CD, sixteen-page photographic booklet, bespoke print, and poster.

December 2011