“Distance and Decay”
Grisha Shakhnes’ music revolves around the creative use of cassette tape, a medium-turned-instrument I must confess to knowing little about. There are sounds on his latest album “Distance and Decay” that to me seem to clearly originate directly from the various material components of cassette playback, such as the screeching of playheads; there are others that clearly have their source elsewhere but are distorted, to a greater or lesser degree, during the process of being played back. However, in the majority cases I couldn’t honestly say whether the sounds heard were produced internally (machine self-noise, artefacts), externally (field recordings, music), or somewhere between the two, though they often share a thick, fuzzy textural quality.
Many artists speak of the pleasure and creative inspiration they find in using analogue equipment, often highlighting the potential for unexpected quirks or glitches to occur, or the ease with which components can be physically manipulated or re-purposed. The participation of listeners in such joys is limited, or at least takes another form. For us, this unpredictability and instability manifests as a sensible impression of a certain kind of world — a world that is there to be made sense of, to structure and to order, but that perpetually collapses in the moment of being grasped. When the source of the sounds is unclear, everything becomes at once quotidian and expressive, and to an equal degree — accident and intention, program and error alike. This world is relevant to the extent that it resembles other worlds: those remembered, imagined, fought over, torn down, built again.
Across the four tracks of “Distance and Decay” I hear machines and concrete, but also windswept hills and underwater landscapes. A lot going on under the surface; or sometimes just surface, blank in a calming, distancing sort of way. Repetition opens up space to occupy a sound, as a particular fragment of time. I wonder at the relationship between these methods of music-making and those of early experimental cinema, not only on a material level (tape/film, reels, playheads) but also on a conceptual one (aura). In any case, the album balances considered construction and loose evocation with a deftness that is utterly engaging and in a strange way dazzlingly beautiful: thoughts exhaled heavily at night, drifting out through the open window.[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/154834600″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]