Time Released Sound: The Chocolate Box Series
Posted In: Chocolate Box Series, David Newlyn, Fred Nolan, Pleq, Rezo Glonti, Sinneplakken, Sonmi451, Spheruleus, Taskerlands, Time Released Sound
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In April, Time Released Sound announced its Chocolate Box series. Each of the six releases is packaged in ‘a small 3.75″ square, hinge lidded and greatly modified chocolate box.’ And don’t let the name of the series mislead you. Most of these are full-sized entrées.
Taskerlands S/T (packaging clip on Vimeo)
Taskerlands is Michael Tanner (Plinth) and David Colohan (United Bible Studies). Tanner and Colohan take the project name from the haunted Victorian mansion that appeared in BBC’s 1972 television play The Stone Tape. The telecast proposed that ghosts are not the residual wills of those who have fallen, but are images somehow captured and rebroadcasted by physical materials, like the projections on a film screen. In this case, certain stone-clad walls are suspect, hence “stone tape.”
Forty years on, it’s still a slick idea, a beautiful metaphor for music, and it fits. This is not to say Taskerlands is necessarily creepy, or haunted in the traditional sense. But its rooms echo with brief glimpses of guitar, piano, bass clarinet, and — as Richard Moult is credited — “frequencies.” There are two meandering tracks, each just under 21 minutes in length, made up of clean tones, low volume, and running streams. Fittingly enough, this was recorded in an attic, and is the best-lit haunted house in memory.
Ruins, by David Newlyn (packaging)
Presented with “demolition materials” taken from the walls of Time Released Sound offices, Ruins, like Taskerlands, also features two long tracks that reflect the artist’s sauntering ethic. “Transitions” begins with the prolonged, luxurious notes of a virtual string section, slow in cadence and elegiac in shade. Ethereal synth notes cut in abruptly, floating and colliding, and the title of the composition becomes clear. It is confirmed with the return to the main string portion, with another incursion, and with the eventual merging of the two. The clawing nostalgia here leaves bruises on our arms.
“Making Life Difficult” develops the composition further, starting where “Transmissions” left off, in a low-humming synthesizer and cold droplets of piano. Newlyn applies both beauty and fright, in the forms of a tugging cello effect and heavily processed recordings of public spaces. The duplication and dredging of human voices lasts only long enough for juxtaposition, and again the track title is cemented in place. Our return to the central composition is better for it.
Four Peaks, by Sonmi451
Belgian composer Bernard Zwijzen takes his Sonmi451 alias from the David Mitchell science fiction epic Cloud Atlas, in which a clone waitress in a dystopian, corpocratic vision of South Korea has been sentenced to death as a revolutionary. (Zwijzen’s connection to the book might be more personal than it first appears: another of the book’s principal characters works as a Belgian composer’s ghost writer.)
The first method of science fiction writing is to dress current events up in futuristic drag. So the message behind Zwijzen’s pseudonym is pretty clear: we’re already there. Our chipper, white-toothed, there’s-an-app-for-that version of consumer fascism is fascism nevertheless, and all of the pretty cooking shows on basic cable won’t boil the fact away.
Such elephant-in-the-room tension is palpable in Zwijzen’s contribution to the series. We never reach the mountain summits counted by the album title (Four Peaks) and listed in the track names (“Elger,” “Matterhorn,” and so on). Indeed, we aren’t supposed to. The terrain is nearly silent, often reduced to a single note stretched across pulses from a faraway beacon. A compressed female voice resounds with punching echoes. Even the signal noise is reduced to a few pinpricks here and there. Remember while listening that Elger is not just a peak in Switzerland, it’s also a crater on the moon. Which is fitting for an album that — while reportedly made with terrestrial equipment — is so celestial in form. And this leads us to the second method of science fiction: when things circle the drain at home, always look out into the stars. It’s quiet there. Far fewer neighbors to deal with. And a much better view.
The Diary Of The Second Officer, by Rezo Glonti
Glonti is a Georgian producer and sound artist. Built around field recordings and decorated with ephemeral synthesizer, the tracks here are literal tracks, travelogue, like the walk through botanical gardens, the visit to Singapore, or a little something called “Balcony Meetings.” “Lagos,” for one, takes a moment or two of captured noise, casts a spectral loop, and adds brief hints of lounge synth. The “Moved By” series is an unexpected double entendre, and confirms the artist’s statement that places and movement are music. (Even the cover art is in on it: the blueprint of a structural cross-section looks a bit like a wave profile from that angle.) “Moved By (Airplane)” sets the background noise of flying coach to minimal electronic jazz; atmospheric music recorded high in the atmosphere. “Moved By (Car)” treats the hum of automobile tires as bass and retextures the sound with a clinking keyboard lick. A clever, sparse, and philosophical album.
Sinneplakken, by Kleefstra/Pruiksma/Kuitwaard/Kleefstra
It’s still astonishing, the sonic affinities between Frisian and English. Fluid readers should be well aware of the Kleefstra mark by now: Romke Kleefstra improvising with guitar, Jan Kleefstra reading poetry, and Sytze Pruiksma tapping on percussion. Sinneplakken was recorded the day after Deislieper was, with Christiaan Kuitwaard added as a second guitarist. English speakers will find Jan’s delivery just barely out of grasp, relieving spoken word of its sometimes unintended camp, but adding a degree of menace that traditional singing cannot reach. The centerpiece here is “Tsjindiel,” a long, ringing, nocturnal and spontaneous piece that glows red with distant warmth.
Quietus Gradualis, by Pleq/Spheruleus
Recording as Pleq and Sphereleus respectively, Bartosz Dziadosz and Harry Towell have produced an entrancing and grounded work. Another side A/side B, vinyl-ready tracklist, Quietus Gradualis features two long, meditative, yet dauntless compositions. First of the two is “Apologue,” a whispered, crackling reinterpretation of guitar, strings and drone. A hushed crescendo is still a crescendo, and the restrained, incremental roar of the song’s second half is delicious. “Vestiges” is louder, looping, and orchestral, populated with far more than just a pair of collaborators. What in another lifetime might be a deafening blues-based guitar riff is muted down into a rippling ambient pool, where fingers sliding across the fretboard give a far better indication of what we’re hearing than the amplifier does. Next, the glow of strings, music’s second force of nature. For a series long on astute packaging and thick with clever nods this way and that, it has saved the smartest for last. Vestiges, indeed: those notes performed once, given life with processing and technique. Then put to the stone tape for perpetuity.
- Fred Nolan for Fluid Radio