Thomas Shrubsole and Craig Tattersall 8-track tape recorder

This latest release for the Other Ideas label (run by them gents in The Boats) is the work of T. Shrubsole and C. Tattersall. Specifically, they are Craig Tattersall (aka the Humble Bee, The Archivist, one half of The Boats, one half of the Remote Viewer, etc.), and Thomas Shrubsole (aka the Dissolving Orchestra, Sub Loam, Lunar Temple, etc.). The first thing to note is that both of these artists have fairly long resumes and under various guises. As for the music itself, it’s a messy, experimental affair that finds both artists getting abrasive with the very resources they usually use to create something calming.

The nitty gritty: one tape, two sides, one extended composition per side. In terms of the overlap between what these two musicians do, one would imagine Shrubsole’s work as Sub Loam and Tattersall’s work as the Humble Bee would be the place where both their paths seemed to most likely to collide in that both projects rely heavily on quieted and stretched tape loops. However, the actual sounds created find Shrubsole’s recent works under his own name seeming to act as a jumping point for these particular excursions.

As side one opens, it sounds like the kind of tape hiss one might expect. But the low ends and high ends collide in a way that’s far more uncomfortable; if one thing doesn’t turn a listener away, it’ll likely be the other. The highs are ear-piercing and screechy, and the lows are enough to make one’s kidneys vibrate. The first eleven minutes are equivalent to hearing a guitar/amp combo abandoned on stage to wail away at one another while a series of bombs go off in the background. If anyone is anticipating these two artists to try to out-quiet one another, that’s out the window almost immediately. But perhaps fitting is that the common ground these two found was based more on restless curiosity than complacent mimesis. The George Bernard Shaw quote “Nothing soothes me more after a long and maddening course of pianoforte recitals than to sit and have my teeth drilled” comes to mind.

Eventually, the chaos becomes the norm and the little flourishes of melody that mark Tattersall’s work and the subtle percussive disembodiments that Shrubsole loves start to peak through. Not to say that this ever starts to feel familiar to the point of safety, no matter how well versed one is with either musician’s resume.

Side B’s excursion starts off some place a little quieter. The low rumbles persist but a few morse code messages from outer space give the piece a melody to latch onto. And those low ends are like Sub Loam’s murkiest experiments from his Cotton Goods release. Overall, the piece feels like it could be the lost b-side to the Forbidden Planet soundtrack. What’s impressive about this particular experiment is just how moody it is — it keeps digging deeper and deeper to create something more off-kilter. By the end, all that’s left is what sounds like an 808 that’s been left on an eternal loop, the sound of howling wind, and some low end feedback. The piece squelches out of existence, regurgitating some of its own highlights. The very final cues sound like a flying saucer taking off.

In the end what prevents this cassette from feeling nothing more than a curiousity for completists is that it speaks to the possibilities of where either or both of these artists could go while collecting the places they’ve been. When considering some of the murky dub experiments The Boats have been mining in the past years, the cassette feels like a way to synthesize, say, the quieter tape loop hiss and hum of the Humble Bee with those dubbed out exercises. As for Shrubsole, this work has most in common with his own early analogue works recently released on his own Dissolving imprint. I’m not sure fans of either musician would anticipate this is the album the pair would come up with. It also feels like it’s probably not what the pair themselves would have imagined themselves coming up with. In the end, that may be the biggest compliment either artist could’ve anticipated. Messy as it is, it’s a fun maze to get lost in for a short while. (Thomas Shrubsole) (Craig Tattersall)

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