2011 10 Favourite Labels
Spotlight 3

Félicia Atkinson
Bee Mask
Gui Boratto
Peter Broderick
Benjamin Broening
Chicago Odense Ens.
Dday One
Lawrence English
The Field
Nils Frahm
Douglas Greed
Jim Haynes
Hess + McFall
High aura'd
Hior Chronik
King Midas Sound
Leyland Kirby
Knox & Oberland
Tom Lawrence
Planetary Assault Systems
Two People In A Room
Christina Vantzou
Marius Vareid
Wolfgang Voigt
Water Borders
Wenngren & Bissonnette
Eisuke Yanagisawa

Compilations / Mixes
Above The City
Air Texture Vol. 1
Burning Palms
Emerging Organisms 4
Live And Remastered

Antonymes/ S. D. Society
Late Night Chronicles
Old Apparatus
Option Command
Benoît Honoré Pioulard
Kevin Reynolds

Steven Hess + Christopher McFall: The Inescapable Fox
Under The Spire

First things first: what prompted Steven Hess and Christopher McFall to title their collaborative effort The Inescapable Fox? Having determined that the album would be heavily predicated upon contrasts of light and dark, McFall thought of Greek mythology and specifically Laelaps, a hound that could never catch whatever he was hunting, and the Teumessian fox, his uncatchable rival. The album material itself doesn't attempt any literal evocation of said story, of course, but instead uses it as a thematic impetus for electro-acoustic explorations undertaken by the two musicians. For those in need of background, the Chicago-based Hess has established himself as a drummer and all-around sound specialist who's worked with Haptic, On (with Sylvain Chauveau), Christian Fennesz, Greg Davis, and Pan American, among others, while McFall is an experimental sound artist rooted in Kansas City who manipulates analog source materials such as piano, saxophone, and field recordings into sonic environments. For this project, Hess is credited with percussion, electronics, and tape manipulation and McFall piano, tape, and voice, though it's best to think of the album as a summative integration of sounds, especially when the production process involved the exchange of analog recordings by mail.

The Inescapable Fox opens with a slow waltz of melancholy piano patterns that's quickly supplanted by a highly textural foray into ambient soundsculpting. Strangulated string glissandos punctuate the free-flowing mass as it moves glacially through immense caverns of reverb and hiss. Recognizable sounds—footsteps, industrial noises, and the like—surface, too, to give the material referential toeholds. The album's two sides (both of which play without interruption) move patiently from one episode to another, with an occasional musical passage surfacing to add contrast to the largely textural moodscaping that dominates. With the album's material shrouded in such ominous atmosphere, the listener often feels as if he/she is moving ever-so-slowly through heretofore unexplored territory and therefore wary of unforeseen traps, even if distant factory sounds offer reassuring comfort in suggesting the presence of life-forms in close proximity. The soft tinkle of piano chords ends the penultimate piece on a note of uplift and affirmation before the foreboding industrial flow of the final piece sets in—a rare juxtaposition of overt light-and-dark contrast on a collection of moodscaping that otherwise presents such contrasts more subliminally.

November 2011