Tape Loop Orchestra: The Word On My Lips Is Your Name / The Burnley Brass Band Plays On In My Heart
Posted In: Andrew Hargreaves, Fred Nolan, Tape loop Orchestra, The Burnley Brass Band Plays On In My Heart, The Word On My Lips Is Your Name
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Anyone much older than 30 knows the sound well. Moments before the deck strips the cassette tape away from its housing, the music slurs, the tempo vanishes, and the instrumentation reduces to a sort of homogeneous gravy. Mostly restricted to car stereo systems, where there was seldom any hope for retrieval, it was a fascinating noise, strangely universal. Potentially ravishing. Ravishing, that is, when it didn’t mean replacing the tape, which it always did.
The compact disc began its gradual arrival throughout the late 1980s, and most of us tucked the thought away, the fleeting, largely subconscious idea that there was more to be had here, that a controlled environment might allow the altogether physical manipulation of sound: no chords, no effects pedals, no software. Instead, the method would employ the rather hamfisted medium of tape as means for stripping melody of its context, timbres, tempos and politics, leaving only essence.
We emphasize that most of us tucked the idea away. But artists like Andrew Hargreaves have absolutely perfected it.
Fluid Radio readers know Hargreaves as one-half of The Boats (Craig Tattersall, who records as The Humble Bee, fills out the original lineup, which has since added the cello work of Danny Norbury). April 23 will see the formal issue of Hargreaves’ third release under the Tape Loop Orchestra handle, and fitting his alias, the new album is a grainy, full-bodied thing that ends largely where it begins. The first lesson of music writing — often painfully learned — is to avoid the description of any method not yet confirmed or entirely understood. But this axiom would preclude literally any review not written by Hargreaves himself. So in an interview intended for a future Fluid Radio article, Tattersall gave us a primer into the allure and processing of tape: “you have to handle it, cut it, stick it together. You can twist it, scratch it, fold it, crease it, freeze it… As an artist this is very appealing.”
The description fits. The double CD (The Word On My Lips is Your Name/The Burnley Brass Band Plays On In My Heart) is the result of piano, cello, field recordings, and the simple — perhaps deceptively simple — tape preparations that whitewash the original material with ultraviolet light. From the crackling and choral tones of the opening seconds, through the scurrying cello and wobbly piano that is the “compendium of tape loop experiments” (we count seven), on to the second disc, with its “elongated brass notes captured bouncing off the valleys … of Andrew’s hometown,” Word On My Lips emits a luminous glow that challenges our coldblooded listening preferences. And it offers a wandering, sometimes melancholy beauty that seems unsure of everything, including its own substrate. Which it should be.
Two discs, ninety minutes of music. Four discernible tracks, and perhaps nine intended tracks in all. Despite the elemental charm and granular abstractness, it is much easier to describe what this release does not have than what it does: a vocal hook, any contrast of instruments, time signatures, social awareness, pounding bass drum, aching violin, dizzying swirls of low-frequency oscillation. Nor does it come with an operating system or instruction manual. Only simple, moving lines. Like the finest of compositions, what you hear is entirely up to you.
Copies available over at Stashed Goods
- Fred Nolan for Fluid Radio