Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Preslav Literary School - 4 releases

A couple of years ago I looked at 3 of Preslav Literary School's (Adam Thomas) releases (here) and now 4 more. A mix of downloads and a vinyl release.

Aura (amp046): Originally recorded for a dance performance it includes "a piano piece..., the words of Carlos Fuentes, odd environmental recordings, elements taken from decaying magnetic tape, and various other forgotten and untitled audio materials". The results is a delightful 3 act piece with an epilogue. The first (and third) partfeature the piano piece, possibly slowed and manipulated, loops from Fuentes (who has a high, almost feminine voice) and bursts of crackles which could be applause. The central section has metallic drones and minimal drones, with a developing percussive loop. The voice part returns with the piano before the scraping and twangclatter, tone fade out. Slightly melancholic, but more gentle relaxed, a lovely composition.

Beautiful was the time: is a layering of fragments from over 100 cassette tapes. John the Exarch starts with a noisy crackle then settles down to backward instruments and voices, a soft talking in the background, and seems to slowly wind down, becoming a drifting pulse. Crackling again, and a fast pulse, opens Ohrid must die - building with birds whistles, voices and breakfast crackling, shifting to pulsing layers of varying speeds, a dog barks, music loops within and clattering pans and voices intrude towards the end. Funereal music opens Cyrillic, singing voices and other music drifts around, and a more gentle mood, reminiscent of Aura, envelops. Voices chattering at the end dispel the mood and close the album, with a satisfying reflection of the sampled origin. These pieces contain a strong narrative and subtle use of the original material, rather than being simple cutandpastes.

In Fractals: is a more straightforward composition. There are three minimalist drone pieces: as the name suggests, there are subtle changes throughout which you don't notice until you realise the balance or beat has changed - plus there are some strategic changes. The title track has a drone, a pulsing white noise and a subtle minimal melody; Sierpinski Triangle starts with a distantsounding hurdygurdy tone (or orchestral sample or ...), phasing in and out, but becoming clearer, a tuvan-drone, all rising as a martial beat seems to develop, but sounding like an underwater masterpiece. And finally Last One Standing is a mellow ceremonial layering of drones and pulses that weave in and out, some backwards shimmery and ringing parts, and like the others slowly build/changes/develops. Classical minimal drone works.

Echolalia: this is the concert result of a tapeloop workshop held late last year on how to make and play cassette tape loops. 11 people were involved and the result reflects this diverse 'band' - each side consists of a series of moments where different loops take a solo, supported by background work, running for about 3 minutes before segueing into the next piece. The tapes range from snatches/slices of voices, songs, instruments, percussions, tones, backwards versions of all the previous; and while there may be 11 players, there seem to be about 4 or 5 layers maximum. A surprising and satisfying aspect is that it was mixed and mastered as it was played live, with no extra overdubs, by the cult Berlin dubstep producer Lord Cry Cry (Blunt Force Trauma): the two sides work so well, flowing seamlessly while maintaining a mood, which is very impressive - you might have expected a mess! And there is a difference between the two sides - Side B seems to have more vocal and musical elements to me - and they each end on a single sample: A on some ethnic-inflected rock and B on a worrying how-to-hunt-elk tape.

This is a fascinating body of work - the thought of tapeloops can sometimes be daunting, but PLS whether solo or with his collaborators on Echolalia, manage the layering editing and selection to produce sounds which are intriguing, seductive and musical. In addition, you don't have to buy before you try - all can be previewed/streamed as linked or on soundcloud, and all but Echolalia are available as free/paywhatyouthink downloads. A very generous gesture - I must admit to having reviewers soft-versions, but the real life releases look like they would be well worth getting.

(now, I have to get preslav sprout out of my mind)

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