Long-since sold out (though still available digitally), Northern Spy began a cassette series entitled Clandestine in 2011 with a four-pack from Messages, Tom Carter (whose Eleven Twenty-Nine project with Marc Orleans is still in my review pile), Zaimph and Loren Connors (see also Haunted House: here) in a duet with Margarida Garcia (who is also responsible for the artwork). As is the case with compilations, it is difficult – though not impossible – to review as a whole, so I shall begin by focusing on each track in turn.
It is an understated opening from Messages. Electronic and manipulated organic drones intermingle, before being joined by the slow, steady beat of tribal drums. The track does not go far beyond this for the most part, but there is plenty enough to sink into, even for its six-minute duration. Things start meld and merge into each other as the piece draws towards its conclusion, before passing like those long rumbling storms that never quite explode into a violent cacophony. This is a great meditative structure which seems a mere taster of something that might easily stretch out for longer.
Tom Carter provides further meditations, this time reflecting largely on the fret board as though it were a pond and his fingers were raindrops. There is a lot of control and restraint in his playing and the result is a beautifully calming, but complex and constantly shifting, composition.
Things are a little less calm on the flip side of the cassette. It is as though in the act of turning the cassette over you had somehow altered the very fabric of reality. Here, chaos reigns. What might ordinarily lie in the background is here made foreground, where it sounds with constancy and a thrilling brashness. The guitar and voice refuse to be entirely subdued by this, however, and struggle to push through all the same.
Things do not relent any with the commencement of Loren Connors & Margarida Garcia’s contribution. As I have said before of Connors, he knows how to create a great sonic structure for others to play within. Here is no exception as he builds the foundation on which Garcia plays freely, thrusting into open spaces with strong, sharp bass stabs. There is a lot going on in both parts, however, and it would be impossible to hear all the subtleties in a single listen.
In conclusion, then, this is a neat early sampler from a label that has continued to make greater and greater waves in the more experimental side of contemporary music. Your $4 will get you a great cross-section of some of the major forces in drone, improvisation and the new avant-garde.
Go to Northern Spy directly to purchase and hear samples of this release.