Sunday 10th JuneJune 11, 2012
Tonight a new CD on the Consumer Waste label by the Chicago-based duo of Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer who perform under the name Coppice. Holes/Tract is a four track album that sees the duo work with shruti box and a modified boom box tape player with tape loops. Quite an intriguing combination of instrumentation then, and the end result is in fact rather nice indeed. What the music isn’t really, is overly droney. Given the choice of tools used by the duo you couldn’t be blamed for assuming that a continuous, layered music might emerge, but for most of the time this isn’t the case. Both the shruti box and the tapes generally lean towards quieter, textural sounds, and while sometimes they can extend out into longer lines, and in the final track in particular, we don’t really ever hear the two inputs doing this at the same time.
I’m not certain who plays what here, but there is a nice subtlety involved with both sets of sounds. The shruti box often becomes an earthy set of bellows sighing dry air rather than anything tonal, but there are no end of clicks and scratches and other vaguely percussive sounds that may also come from the instrument as “acoustic filters” are also applied to it. The tapes are mostly used in a similar way, little intrusions of quiet abstract sounds rather than anything particularly overt, with just one moment early in the disc where a mesh of high pitched wails build and combine before being cut dead with flapping distress really sounding like traditionally recognisable tape work. Often it feels like we are hearing the mechanics of the boom box slowly whirring over, perhaps manually interrupted rather than the tapes playing themselves. The deathly quiet, and quite beautiful third track Scour (great title) certainly suggests this.
The closing Brim is where the music finally slips into full-on drone, but even here I find the music surprisingly detailed and with a constantly shifting grain running through it. An entire album of such linear music would bore me, but offset against the other three quarters of the album this track sounds like a celebration of the instruments finally set free to go where they feel they should be going. Towards the last third of the track the sounds break down again, forced into corners and choked as they are on the earlier pieces.
Coppice make lovely music. If I have heard material from Cuéllar and Kramer before then I don’t remember it, but certainly this album has price amy ears up to their names. The pair have a strong understanding of the unusual instruments they set out to work with and so are able to create music that is at once aesthetically refined in its quietly tense mannerism and also structurally well considered- nothing here sounds like a happy accident. Holes/Tract is also a tough one to pigeonhole. The liner notes state that the music was composed between 2009 and 2010 and yet I am certain at its core it was improvised, reminding me if anything of the lowercase sound of London and Berlin at the turn of the millennium, though to be honest its some way away from anything in particular. Fine music then, one to pick up even if you haven’t heard of the musicians before, and do so quickly as only 100 hand-made copies exist… Consumer Waste.