Canada’s Depatterning, aka Gary Mentanko, has produced something of a dated passport with his latest effort, The Community Pasture. As well as running Wist Rec, a label that has, over the years, released music from the likes of The Humble Bee, Loscil, and Tape Loop Orchestra, Mentanko has been carrying out his own aural investigations. The Community Pasture arrives on Analogue Chat and delves into Canada’s history, acting as an ‘examination of rural growth and decline in the 20th century’. The lush-green tape has been spray-painted in a colour to match its lush-green environment, but manmade constructions – water towers, pubs, village halls – are constant intrusions upon its natural setting, polluting its brooks and bracken, radiating ill, broken synths from a collage of stuttering, twisted melodies, tangled up as if caught in discarded plastic.
Dating back to the 1930’s, the period in which Mentanko’s Ukrainian ancestors arrived in the province of Saskatchewan, The Community Pasture was a land-management service located in and around the Prairie Provinces of Canada. Depatterning’s music is an aural examination of a time long ago, a document of the past leaking into the present. Eleven experimental artefacts make up Side A, while Side B features a twenty-three minute chat with Mentanko, offering the audience an inside-look at the musical process, his inspirations, and what contributed to the period’s enchantment.
Garbled voices, eerie recordings from the ghost box of the thirties, and a collection of present-day field recordings act as necessary make-up, and so are the grainy, distorted synths, which stare from the smudged, imperfect eyesight of time, a splintering crack running down its supermodel-smooth body. White noise buzzes its incoherent interference, further distorting the picture and resembling those early days of intermittent tests and failing broadcast relays. Insectile sounds seep from electrical stations and invasive buildings; these bricks shot up faster than the weeds. The confused synth tries to comprehend the incomprehensible, the decline of its once-mighty kingdom, but the answer is in plain sight: it’s man.
Environments will constantly evolve or erode with or without human interference, but these transmissions are a noisy dissonance, trampling on a leafy canopy with its pylon monstrosities and its hulking, Godzilla-like towers. Overhanging wires bear more than a passing resemblance to branches, the colours shifting from brown to black. Radio towers and their thick cable-biceps dissect green acres. The eating away of a beautiful area is painful to watch, and the music challenges us to stare. As a document, the music presents an unbiased look at the wellbeing of the land, but the general vibe is of something irrevocably lost. The musical geography rises and dips with the swell of a hill and the lull of a stream, mimicking the rise and subsequent decline of the land. It is then forever lost.