Along day at work today, but it was nice to come home and cook dinner slowly with a bottle of decent chilled wine to hand and a CD playing. I figure I had better write about tho music now though before I start my third glass and any control of the English language I might have pretended to have goes straight out of the window. The disc in question is, I think, a release from the middle of 2011, which makes my review a little late, but as I was only recently sent the CD by one of the musicians, and I like it quite a bit, it seems perfectly reasonable to write about it now. The disc is another in the Brombron series of releases put out by the Korm Plastics label alongside the Extrapool venue/workspace in Nijmegen in The Netherlands. As I understand it, in a similar manner to the Q.o2 space in Brussels, the Brombron project brings musicians in to undertake short residencies, wherein they usually record a CD that appears in the familiar house packaging. I think the project always selects duos, perhaps even people that haven’t worked together before (I am guessing at this part) and in the case of this release the pair are Machester, UK’s Ben Gwilliam and Bowling Green, Ohio, USA’s Jason Zeh. What this pair have in common is a mutual interest in making music using magnetic tape, and it is such interests that have been used to create their album Dots.
The description of the objects and methods used to make the music here is intriguing to say the least. All of the sounds are apparently derived from “prepared tape, related machinery, and other magnetic sourcing including posting, heating, freezing and puncturing tape” Now, I’m not really sure how posting tape might crate some kin dog magnetic sourcing, but perhaps it does. Perhaps if you send magnetic tape a long distance the mechanical systems it encounters along the way has an effect on it. Certainly many of the sounds heard here on Dots seem to be just ghostly remnants left on tapes and found and used by the musicians, so maybe this is indeed the case. The piece is a single forty-five minute work consisting mostly of soft, earthy drone sounds of one type or another, arranged in a very simple, yet subtle manner without too much happening at any one time and the shift from one sound to another often coming from a sudden cut.
The really nice elements of this music are the qualities of the individual sounds. From the opening scratches and scribbles to the deep, dry, gradually building roar that lights up the central section of the disc, there is a really nice feel to all of the sounds here, not just a throwaway electronic screech or a bit of static, but sounds discovered on the surface of tape, full of detail, history and a sense of natural texture. Listening here feels a bit like listening to some of Lee Patterson’s explorations into naturally occurring sounds (Gwilliam and Patterson have worked together quite a bit in the past) as there seems to be a world of activity to be found on the surface of these tapes, obviously amplified, altered and set in motion by the assorted crazy treatments the duo applied to them. The end result is a composition that shows great restraint in its simplicity, often dropping away to just the quietest of murmurs, or when it does get loud, using the extremes at either end of the volume scale to offset sounds against each other to great effect. This release makes me wonder something I often think about when pondering over a composition of this type. Who decides what to place next to what and who decides it is time to suddenly cut the music dead at a certain point? Is the sourcing of sounds one person’s task while the other composes the final piece? Is there a lot of arguing, discussion about how it should all be laid out? It fascinates me that two people can make music in this way and actually finish an album together. I’m no musician, but placed int he same situation I’m not sure I could work in such a manner. Anyway, a fine disc that is very likely still available and well worth checking out.