Tape shares with Kiln many properties. Both are long-standing—long-enduring might be a better way of putting it—musical outfits that release albums rarely and whose members assume a rather self-effacing public profile. In the case of Tape, the Swedish trio was born fourteen years ago when brothers Andreas and Johan Berthling joined forces with Tomas Hallonsten and followed that with the release of their first Tape album, Opera, on Häpna two years later. Milieu, Rideau, Luminarium, and Revelationes followed with some degree of regularity thereafter, bringing us to Casino, which the trio recorded in Stockholm last December.
Though the group's supple blend of acoustic and electronic sounds hasn't changed, it's reached a level of refinement on Casino that's hard to miss. As one might expect from a project that's been operating since 2000, there's a maturity and ease to the band's playing that's apparent throughout the forty-minute album. A typical track sees either guitar figures by Johan or piano playing by Hallonsten functioning as the structural core and melodic essence, which Andreas augments with laptop-generated treatments. The album's meditative, dream-like quality is strengthened not only by the compositions but by the absence of a rhythm section, a move that frees the musicians from having to adhere to a strict, unwavering tempo, and for whatever reason, the seven tracks find the group in an oft-wistful frame of mind.
In “Seagulls,” organ playing imbues the electric guitar with warmth, while the comparatively sparsely arranged “Repose” finds Andreas threading all manner of abstract textures in amongst the others' restrained guitar and organ expressions. In similar manner, elegant piano melodies gently flow through “Alioth” alongside the insistent babble of synthesizers and electronics. Ample space appears between the guitar phrases in “Merak,” a move that in turn grants lonely, melodica-like sounds ample opportunity to impose themselves on the listener, after which “Eagle Miaows” closes the set with five minutes of gentle uplift.The marked contrast between the acoustic instruments' contributions and the sputtering electronics is one of the album's most distinguishing characteristics. What provides the greatest listening pleasure, however, is witnessing the natural ease with which the pieces unfold and the intimate interactions between the three musicians. No matter how abstract a given piece might become, the music never loses the stirring emotional quality that's imparted by the melancholy tone of the material. You'll encounter no small number of beautiful moments on this latest Tape outing.