The subject(s) of this review could rightly be described as “the future”. Mike Pollard and [name removed by request] are two teenage kids from Illinois (how sick are they of reading that?) who run two killer labels Arbor and JK Tapes, respectively, and play under solo guises Treetops and Laissez Faire, also respectively. The bros collaborate as Widening Horizon as well. I reviewed a Treetops a tape a little while back and now I’ve come full circle (triangle?) with debut cassettes from Widening Horizon and Laissez Faire.
Popping in Widening Horizon my ears are met with a bright but murky mess which is what I like to hear. Mostly sloshed vocals, feedback, and keyboard drone. There is also flashes of drums and cymbals, probably the work of Mike. There’s a post-Skaters vibe about the whole thing, which I personally dig. I like how totally drenched the thing sounds too. It’s hard to adequately describe, but the tape is just drenched in sound. The heavy floating here is really rooted by the drums, which are played pretty tastefully never really dominating the overall sound, but making their presence felt amongst the oscillating tones. The phantom melody that flows through the whole thing is key. There’s no one element that’s providing it but somehow all the sounds cohere in one big blurred meditation.
The B(elligerent)-side comes out a lot a more aggressive. I’m not too sure what the dudes are playing here, lots of distortion (though not harsh), flute-like feedback, keyboard sounds, and whatever other shit was around for them to bang on. There’s not much to grab onto here. The thing that’s interesting is that even though it’s fragmented, there are so many fragments piled on top of each other that it sounds rather full, even as the sounds shoot past you. Towards the end of the first side there is some slightly discernible vocals and militant drumming which sounds real nice buried under all the delayed feedback. Overall, a real cool tape, especially for a debut. There’s supposed to be more on the way from Widening Horizon (a series or something?) and my ears are looking forward to that for sure.
It’s interesting listening to [name removed by request] solo debut on Abandon Ship and comparing it with previous Treetops knowledge because I can start discerning who brings what to the Widening Horizon jams… sort of. Mike appears to bring the drums, [name removed by request] brings the keyboard(?) and they both deal pretty heavily in feedback/vox/whatever. Anyhow, the first of the four tracks on Asylum is, if I’m reading it correctly, “Afgan”. Beginning with some looped organ/rumbling, it’s got a more meditative feel than the Widening Horizon stuff. Feedback is present but mostly kept at bay, leaving the beauty (relatively) un-obscured. There’s a constant activeness to the sounds (on the WH tape too) which I can’t really figure out. The sounds never stay in the samespot for long, though it’s not like they’re darting around everywhere. Possibly my favorite track on here is “Platypus”. It starts similarly to the previous track with billowing waves of reverbed fuzz. Things increase steadily until there’s a thick layer of fluctuating noise that would seem harsh if it weren’t for the mellow pretty rays dappled over everything. Everything drops out at the end leaving a brief but striking keyboard bit. “Pomegranate”, though a bit rougher, has the melodiousness consistent through the tape, for the most part at least. There’s an excellent moment, where against a droning keyboard loop [name removed by request] lashes out with measured brief bursts of harshness. Very nice. Maybe that one is my favorite actually, or maybe it was the first track. It’s hard to choose. Anyway, the tape ends somewhat anti-climactically with “One Wiseman” which is a slightly manipulated recording of some dude being interviewed/talking about an Asian woman’s sound exhibit at an art museum and Michael Jackson (“another interesting personality”) and “losing your edge”. I don’t know dude, it was weird.
Both tapes come packaged nicely. Widening Horizon comes in a double-sided, wrap-around card plastered with psychedelic geologic/ecologic collages and sealed with a sticker. Totally killer. The Laissez Faire tape comes with a fold out j-card with very blue artwork. It should also be noted that the colors used in the artwork is totally the color of the sounds. Widening Horizon was limited to 40 and all sold out at source, so if you see a copy, snag it. Asylum is still ready and available from Abandon Ship (though limited to 50) so check that one out before it’s too late.