EPs / Cassettes / Singles
Air Texture III (Curated by Deadbeat and DJ Olive)
Listeners coming to the third volume in the Air Texture series are advised to focus more on the series concept than the curators involved. In other words, the fact that the Air Texture volumes emphasize an ambient as opposed to beat-driven style is what drives the material, so anyone expecting a punchy, bass-throbbing set by Scott Monteith (aka Deadbeat) on the order of Radio Rothko (issued in 2010 by theAgriculture) is in for a surprise, and Gregor Asch's DJ Olive half is similarly low-key. Which isn't to suggest that the release isn't worthy of one's attention or that the artists' associated personae aren't well-represented by their respective halves, because it is and they are. It's just that the music, generally speaking, is designed more for the head than the hips. An interesting dimension of this particular twenty-seven-track release (all previously unreleased, incidentally) is that it juxtaposes the experimental music-making originating out of New York and Berlin, with DJ Olive featuring works by influential figures like Phil Niblock, Jim O'Rourke, and Pauline Oliveros, whereas Deadbeat calls on Ricardo Villalobos (partnered with Max Loderbauer), Thomas Fehlmann, Tom Thiel, Pole, and Loops of Your Heart (The Field's ambient alter ego), among others.
Monteith frames his disc with two Deadbeat productions, the first “Laura Solaris,” a wondrously calibrated exercise in luscious tonepainting, and the second “Primordian Waves,” a brooding outro exuding an after-the-storm quality. Contributions from Berlin-based friends and colleagues dominate, highlighted by a track from Pole, on whose ~scape label Monteith issued a number of superb full-lengths. A heavy dub vibe naturally permeates a number of the disc's selections, which in turn lends the Deadbeat half a strong sense of cohesiveness. As mentioned, many of them eschew beat propulsion for slow-motion, densely textured moodscaping. Long-time Monteith compadre Mike Shannon, for instance, appears alongside I'm Not A Gun's Takeshi Nishimoto under the Blue Fields name for the serenading “Open Your Eyes.” Some aren't afraid to stretch out, either, with Loops of Your Heart's “Like A Wolf” and Fehlmann's “Embrace” both in the ten-minute range. The latter, in fact, is one of the few beat-driven pieces, with Fehlmann animating a dubwise mix of percussive textures with a jazz-inflected, serpentine thrust (the tune is also, strangely enough, reminiscent at times of an early Weather Report improv). Pole's “WipfelDub” also has some spring in its echo-drenched step, though it's more notable for being a fine example of Stefan Betke's exquisite command of texture. In some respects, Deadbeat's disc plays like a low-key Staedtizism collection, given the presence of so many figures who also appeared on the now-retired ~scape label.
Associated with the so-called illbient scene of the ‘90s through his participation in the Brooklyn outfit We™, Asch is as well-versed a candidate as any to assemble a NY-styled set. His opening selections put considerable distance between his disc and Deadbeat's, with the hyper-minimalistic blur of Niblock's “Bells & Timps” establishing a vastly different tone (the piece was recorded in 1985 in a Ghent belfry tower using moving coil microphones) roundly reinforced by Ikue Mori (“While Sleeping”) and Oliveros (“Cows, Cows, Cows!”). Of course not all of the contributors are associated with New York, with Fennesz (Austria) and Oren Ambarchi (Australia) the obvious exceptions, but many are Brooklyn-based, and just as Monteith's half suggests a ~scape connection, Asch's plays at times like a set from theAgriculture, the Brooklyn-based label with which he's affiliated. In fact, a We™ reunion of sorts occurs near the disc's end with all three of the group's members—Asch, Ignacio Platas (Once 11), and Rich Panciera (lloop)—contributing unsettling moodscapes, Once11's “Whatawind” a disc two rarity for being beat-based and melody-driven. Elsewhere, a beautifully paced, ten-minute live performance of multi-layered string playing by violinist Evynid Kang (“Petrified Wood”) impresses, as do haunting dronescapes by Andris Brazus (“Étalé de tout son long”) and Raz Mesinai (aka Badawi) (“Go Figure Skating”). Certainly no buyer will feel shortchanged by the release, as both discs are long and packed with plenty of music.