Tape: Rideau

Rideau, the third studio-based album from Tape (formed in 2000 by brothers Andreas and Johan Berthling with Tomas Hallonsten), departs most obviously from its predecessors in production approach: while the first two were recorded by the group members in rural Sweden, Rideau was laid down in producer Marcus Schmickler's (aka Pluramon) Cologne studio. Even though occasional smatterings of distorted electronic noise suggest his involvement, Schmickler adopts a generally non-intrusive role, seemingly content to let Tape's acoustic and electronic hybrids manifest themselves without his intervention.

One of the album's greatest pleasures lies in witnessing the consummate ease with which Tape develops its material over ten-minute durations (in three of the album's five pieces). Throughout its relaxed eleven minutes, the stately opener “Sunrefrain” alternates between placid yet stirring passages of delicate electric guitars and organ and fortissimo episodes emblazoned with lush horns and odd whirring noises, the piece overall exuding a sombre melancholy that recalls Sigur Rós. Befitting its twelve-minute duration, the closing “Long Lost Engine” unfurls leisurely with a literally metronomic organ pulse directing its linear flow and a strong sense of grandeur arising as the piece moves towards its elegant, horn-laden climax. In between, an insistent pulse generates tension in “A Spire” while a syncopated three-bar pattern plods throughout “Sand Dunes,” its strangeness offset by a sunny melody that floats overhead. Intentionally or not, the multiple shakers and organs in “Exuma” recall Steve Reich's Four Organs though Tape's tune quickly stakes out its own unique drone universe.

Tape's pieces aren't designed to impress as displays of instrumental virtuosity, though the group's members are certainly musically capable. Nor is Tape fixated on the uniqueness of its sound, as its arsenal of organ, guitar, bass (and the occasional dash of vibes, horns, and electronics) is a pleasing but hardly unique array. Rideau clearly demonstrates that it's the originality of Tape's compositional conception that most distinguishes its sound.

December 2005