Monday, September 27, 2010

Taming Power

Over the last few years I have trumpeted the focussed talent and output of Askild Haugland, who is Taming Power, and whose recordings have been released in cassette and now vinyl through Early Morning Records. Facing the realities of economics and his commitment to a less common medium, Askild has settled on an annual release cycle.

His most recent offering Twenty-One Pieces (Early Morning Records 2x12 018) is that behemoth from the vinyl age, a double album. I remember when the 80minutes of a double album were used mainly for live releases, best ofs or the occasional (often reviewed as bloated) studio album. The reality of the now is evidenced by the rerelease of the excess of the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street - seen as sprawling then but now fitting onto a single cd, offering a length that recording artist now can, and often are expected to, fill (Robert Palmer's Clues was about 36 minutes and would probably be denounced as mean - there's 80 minutes available, fill it up). Someone said 'more is less' (it is disputed but Mies Van de Rohe gets the main credit).

So what is Askild offering? In some ways it is like a best of/sampler collection and is a great overview of his methods and musics. He has balanced the four sides nicely in terms of their content (a guitar side, gong side,) and balance between dense and simple pieces.

But first the aesthetics. The overall look of the EMR is maintained - like most of the albums the cover is primarily black with a framed photo on the front (this release is mountains) while the back has a smaller photo and the frame includes the detailed details of the instruments used and the recording dates of the tracks (the reduced production rate has allowed Askild to get the covers printed rather than hand assembling). Those familiar with Taming Power from the recordings or these reviews will know he uses tapes and cassettes to delay/overdub in simple recordings, but also to layer and manipulate previous solos. So some tracks have a single date and take number, while others have multiple and nested dates and takes as material is re-produced. The most dense one is the third track on side C which has 21 dates associated with it! On these albums we have recordings from 98 to 09. I also noticed under the copyright statement it says 'the voices of time' - looking back at past recording the apothegm started with 16 (light passes undetected through the darkness) and continued into 17 (silence reigns unnoticed within turmoil).

Side A is the most varied instrumentally, and also the simplest. The first piece is casiotone notes, looped and layered to form chords. The second is a long guitar work, moving between note bending, percussion, tonal melodies and long plucked notes - a shifting and engrossing solo. Then a field recording that is a stuttering cloud (wind?)with sounds within, before another short simple guitar piece ends the side. In the guitar and casiotone pieces notes are generally clear and simple, sometimes bent, sometimes melodic and others combining more atonally, and the pace is stately, relaxed.

That track is reflected in the guitar opener to side B - the drone side - which this time includes some tape work to create backwards sounds. Three multilayered pieces using drilbu, dingsha and singing bowl produce exciting rumbling layered almost-electro, some dense others simpler, but all rolling and building in a manner seen in the last few albums that introduced these instruments (and there is some choral voice work though I am not sure about the handsaw). A guitar and casio piece is echoed looping and pulsey, before a short percussive stutter guitar piece which gradually increases in speed before a short solo at the end to fade out the side.

Side C is the guitar side: opening with 2 shorter pieces, simple and the second more atonal, before a long slow building complex work which drones and builds, ringing and hissing, transmuting under your ears, dragging them in. Two more shorter works close the side - the first a looped echoey voice and guitar and then a sitar like piece.

The final side mixes it up again. Short works for guitar and then casiotone open the side, then two more dense pieces for the singing bowls: the first seems voicelike while the second more an organ. And again, balance and placement throughout the album to give variation and narrative: a simple guitar solo with some freeform strings and then a simple casiotone closer.

If you haven't heard any Taming Power, this would be a good place to start as it covers the moods and methods of the man. It isn't a new direction but more of a contemplation of EMR17 celebrated as 10 years of EMR and 20 years of Taming Power - and the fan will know what they are getting and will enjoy this varied edition to the oeuvre.

Contact Askild at earlymrecords@yahoo. No he doesn't have a website, myspace page or any of that stuff - this is old school self release vinyl.
(and so to my confession - I have ripped my Taming Power cassettes and vinyl so that I can play the pieces in all manner of venues, not limited by having a record or cassette player. sorry Askild: but I love the artifacts and the music)

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