The mesmeric (and fundamentally unsettling) Tape Anthology Vol. 1 reverberates with a series of discordant, non-linear sounds. Christoph Berg’s tape manipulations yield a number of wild, immediate sounds, and they revel in the fact that they won’t win any beauty pageants, preferring gutters to gold crowns and the trash instead of bright lipstick. Intentionally or not, these manipulations also produce an eerie music: music from the ether and the outer limits.
The inaugural release on Monochrome Editions – Berg’s own imprint – is also the beginning of a new album series that concentrates specifically on tape manipulation. Recorded in different parts of the world, but still managing to sound cohesive and whole, Tape Anthology Vol. 1’s source material takes in both field recording and instrumentation, although both are scratched and warped beyond recognition. Violin aids in an overall softening, but that comes later, and after the fog has settled in. The sound is immediate and pressing, and then the violin’s sound bursts with a stomach-explosion to rival that of John Cage’s chest in Alien. From its sticky remains and in a grounded, fogged-up register, otherworldly sounds begin to gather, shuddering, still alive.
The distorted sounds of ‘The Vineyard’ are interspersed with a heavier, repetitive rhythm: the trampling of feet, or the steady, monotonous sound of a train carriage grinding against rails, or the entangling of tape creating an entirely new sound. It succeeds in unsettling the listener, at first dislodging the mind from its safe haven and then loosening the screws of sanity. It growls and bares its teeth. An American werewolf once did the same thing when it stalked the tunnels and passenger walkways of Tottenham Court Road. The noisier side of the album indicates chaos, with its life experiences either echoing of random chance (manifesting in improvisation) or synchronicity (manifesting in ordered composition).
Cut, tweaked, destroyed, repaired, reshaped: these sounds have gone through a Frankenstein-process, and although they’ve come back from the dead, they bear psychological scars relating to what they’ve already been through. The well-travelled sounds are in constant motion, going from place to place and singing songs from their homeland. Voices travel through the reels, too, but they’re quiet and indistinct. Because of the growing distance between their original setting and their new home – Berg’s studio – they seem to become weaker, eventually dissipating into something to mimic a garbled EVP recording. The sounds on coda ‘Hymn for the Intrigued’ melt and morph in front of the listener, and the ghost of a harmony is promised, but this is also cut short: the record intentionally avoids resolution. Expectations are never fully realised; things don’t come to completion, and they remain intentionally unresolved. Like life. The ears are deceived in light of such derangement / de-arrangement. As it is, Tape Anthology Vol. 1 is less of a trick and more of a treat.