Thursday 5th JanuaryJanuary 5, 2012
Tonight’s CD is the last of the three recent releases on the Consumer Waste label that I have yet to write about, an album named Cardtape Drafts by the Manchester/Bremen duo of Ben Gwilliam and Hainer Woermann. The title of the album comes from the instrumentation used, with Gwilliam working with tape, magnetics and amplified processes and Woermann amplified cardboard and preparations. Not your everyday choice of instrumentation then, but what this music is not is some kind of novelty recording. The four pieces here have a focussed musicality to them, a particular soundworld obviously dictated by the instrumentation chosen but without any sense of restriction. In fact if I did not know what was being played here I would have guessed at some kind of basic analogue electronics and some small close miked objects of one kind or another, but cardboard isn’t something I would have guessed.
The soundworld we are presented here does have a microscopic feel to it. Everything is very slow, each sound is generally quite small, little pops, clicks, rubs and tiny squeals blown up through the raw filters that microphones can be to create quite a textural, flattened series of sounds. From what I can tell we don’t really hear anything recorded on Gwilliam’s tapes, (presuming of course that the tape he uses is recording tape, it could quite easily be sticky tape of some kind) but rather we hear the sound of the tape itself physically moving over objects, being pulled against a tape head or other simple microphone, the output a granular crunch for the most part rather than anything particularly tonal, though little moments do appear, the groaning low drone of the final track AN being an obvious exception. Woermann’s cardboard sounds are, as might be expected quite dry and wispy, but the use of amplification turns a bowed corner of thick card into a bristling roar, and tiny folds and cuts into percussive strikes of varying intensity. Oddly, I am also quite often reminded of the extended techniques applied to saxophones and trumpets. Things seem to gurgle and hiss in a similar way, and the tiny pops and clicks we hear often could easily belong to opened and closed valve keys. The amplified textures of Mark Wastell’s set-up a decade ago spring to mind, as do Jeph Jerman’s early close miked mini disc recordings, but what I enjoy the most about this music is how the actual sounds come second to the way they are arranged, how the music pans out.
Indeed, it is testament to how enjoyable this CD is musically that I found myself often forgetting how it was made and just engaging with the sounds presented. Quite often its impossible to tell who is doing what, where the tape begins and the card ends, and there is quite a sense of singularity here, hat the two musicians are working very closely together rather than pushing each other about. My favourite of the four tracks is probably HB, the first ten minute long piece, and particularly a section roughly halfway in where, if I was played the section blind I would have guessed I was hearing a field recording of something metallic being blown about on a windy day. This is very nice stuff then, thoroughly engaging, a set of sounds that draws the ear in and a musical voice that holds you there once you are grabbed. There are only a hundred copies each of these Consumer Waste discs by the way, and I imagine they are going fast, so I thoroughly recommend that you pick them up while you can.