Cassette Reviews

Four from Hideous Replica

May 5, 2014

Hideous Replica

The following four releases are all cassettes issued by the London-based Hideous Replica label or its sublabel Wasted Capital Since 2013. Some are around a year old, and released in relatively small editions but as all appear to still be available from the label it seemed fitting to include all four.

Louie Rice – Degenerates

Louie Rice is one third of the very interesting trio VA AA LR alongside Adam Asnan and Vasco Alves, who have released a couple of strong CDs over the past year or two, both of which I have miserably failed to write about. Degenerates consists of  five unnamed tracks spread across two sides of a short chrome cassette tape. The five pieces, all quite short with the longest a few seconds short of seven minutes all have a characteristic of their own, but perhaps because of the minimal, laid back nature of the music I seem to struggle to notice when one piece ends and another begins unless I really go looking for the joins, which to be fair are really not hard to spot if you make an effort to step out of the oddly hypnotic mood this music invokes.

Rice puts to use electronics of some kind, certainly a fair amount of lo-fi crackling and buzzing and also quite possibly analogue synth or something close to make music that is really very slow, quiet and remarkably simple but also in some odd way quite enchanting. The opening 06:45 starts with an extremely deep, heavy bass pattern that loops repeatedly until joined by further revolving bleeps and scribbles. It sounds vaguely like an outtake from minimalist techno of some kind slowed right down to a crawl, making each sound rub itself into your ears over and over again. Elsewhere there is less repetition, but the sense of a pulse remains and the pace and volume stick at snail levels. Odd, unidentifiable scrapes and shimmering buzzes meet gurgling stomach churns and weird little ping pong clicks at various points. Somehow, and I really am not sure how, there is something quite individual and pleasingly balanced about Rice’s music here.

Vasco Alves – Volume 1

Alves’ solo cassette is a single sided, sixteen minute long affair that lists only “a battered portable cassette recorder” as its sound source, though one assumes that the various sounds here were then arranged, albeit merely linearly in some form of sequencing programme, as nobody can change cassette tapes as fast as the jump cuts made from section to section of this intriguing work. We hear all kinds of material, weird spring-like twangs, glimpses of field recordings, murky excerpts from dance tracks, the whirr of engines (possibly the tape players own mechanisms) and a whole lot else in a series of little vignettes, each of which are then warped, clouded and bluntly edited by the far from regular motors of the player, its hissing, blurry output and Alves’ sharply judicious use of the player’s stop and start buttons. It doesn’t seem that there is any  filtering or processing happening here other than the natural degradation processes of the tape machine used to create the work (or the tape it has been recorded on that I am playing here now) and neither is there any layering taking place- each burst of sound begins as the last one brutally equals to a halt. So Alves’ piece relies on the variety and peculiarity of the sounds he has chosen and the way his battered old tape player treats them. Its a curious affair, kind of like the old tape to tape cut-up collages most of us made as kids but without too much of the pause button pyrotechnics and instead allowing the juxtapositions of the collection of obscurities to form the composition. Nice work.

Adam Asnan – Veil After Veil

Stretched across two sides of a fifteen minute tape, Asnan’s solo contribution is the longest here. In some ways it feels very similar to Alves’ solo tape, as murkily recorded little section sod activity seem to come and go after one another without a lot of crossover between them. Asnan’s subject matter is more focussed however, with rattling and vibrating engines and mechanisms seemingly playing a big part. If the first side resembles a stream of  grungey appropriations of rattling and complaining old agricultural engines, so flipping the tape over offers less of the chugging bricolage and more soft, finely vibrating hums and tones the origin of which is hard to tell. As with the Alves, the feeling is of small sonic anecdotes sewn together to create a longer whole, but while the various parts are more in tune with one another Veil After Veil feels a little less of a flowing narrative as silences are often left between the various sections, and each side of the tape feels like it ends because the tape ran out rather than being the result of any compositional decision. Its still a fascination listen, though there is none of the curious impact of strangely chosen off the wall elements. A spoken word radio grab aside there is little here that is immediately identifiable and we are left to enjoy the sounds purely for their abstract acoustic properties. On the whole, this works pretty well, but here I find myself wanting to hear a better reproduction of those sounds rather than the murky offerings that cassette tapes offer us up.

Miguel A. Garcia, Oscar Martin – Mneffa
Vaco Alves, Louis Rice – Arcs
Split cassette

A split tape, with one side featuring the duo of Garcia (who also records as Xedh) and Martin (see also the moniker Noish) whose previous work I have written about here. Their Mneffa consists of six tracks of rough electronic dissonance sculpted into not overly noisy works that sound improvised but in a layered, accumulating manner rather than any call and response conversation. The sounds are a mix of groaning, screeching and drilling electronic tones and softer, organ-like colouring but there is plenty of shifting between palette and dynamics from track to track to keep things from getting too droney. One of the tracks (its hard again to tell precisely which as they start or finish is difficult to figure out) is the most interesting. Some kind of distant recording of dance music, as if captured through a thick wall can be heard throughout, with bits of distorted electronic buzzing and brutally treated effects pedal feedback ricocheting above it. The two musicians also seem to be split between the two channels as well, which actually made listening to the music as a complete whole quite difficult unless I sat directly between the two speakers and didn’t turn my head, so after the first listen I resorted to headphones. Good stuff, more raucous than anything else here, but considered and under control enough to make for an engaging listen.

The gem amongst this little collection of tapes though comes from the Alves and Rice side of this split cassette. the only description of the single track Arcs given in the liner notes offers us “compressed white noise and processed statics”, which may sound vague but actually describes what we have here well. The slow pace of Rice’s solo returns, as does, for some parts, the quietness, but there is an intensity and energy to the flashes of white noise and crackling abrasion here that the rhythmic patterns of Degenerates didn’t offer. This is highly charged music, bristling with next to nothingness at times, erupting into swathes of tinny, metallic static elsewhere. The duo work with very little- just a few varieties of grey, earthy sounds are put to use here, but there is a neat sense of placement and patience to the music even when the clouds of static seem to violently struggle against the restraints Alves and Rice’s composition places on them and everything feels close to implosion. It can’t be easy to sculpt something captivating and meaningfully interesting with seemingly featureless sounds, the like of which otherwise make up the day to day detritus of our electronic lives. The duo however manage to create work that has character and charm from such bluntly unemotional content. Fine work indeed, likely to go unnoticed.

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply