It’s taken me way too long to say a few words about Housecraft. They flew under my radar for a while but once they came to my attention I was very impressed. The visual aesthetic is consistently top-notch and head Housecrafter Jeffry Astin has a keen ear for great drone acts, most of them lesser-known (at least to me). I also have much love for any label that peddles cheap tapes, these two are my picks from the sampling Jeffry sent me a while back. So let’s get this review poppin’.
I’m pretty sure that Tricorn and Queue is just the name of the crew and not a collaboration, but don’t quote me. The first of the four stops on the tape is “Gilded Feathers/First Flight Over Ashen Trees” and I’m tempted to call it my favorite but we’ll see where I end up by the end of the review. The first portion of the track is full of skittering muck. Pieces of vocals, sustained tones and clipped, cut, echoing percussive sounds. Despite the complete lack of congruence the group seems oddly focused. Like they know where their impulses will take them before they even have them. There’s a point where, it seems, the players make a conscious effort to get pretty and it sucks me in every time. I'm guessing this is the “Ashen Trees” portion. Lovely tones slip slowly underneath the mild cacophony, surrounding and filling every crack with flowing, floating beauty. It has an amazing effect on my mind, calming but forgoing any sort of blandness. It’s a really wondrous flight that I could fly with forever. Nothing is out of place, every new tone, every peak, every valley; it’s all effortless and all about the oneness with sound. Sorry to get new age-y on yr ass but this is fucking great. There’s a little synth part that eeks out at the very end that’s exceptional too as the piece slowly gives in to silence. “Live @ the 612, Gainesville 7/20/07” fills out the rest of the side, and it continues the somber lilting idea but it's kept in check by an occasional, delayed metallic tapping. Things then turn a bit weirder with a reversed violin-type sound and various washes of noise. This gives way to another set of glacial sounds. A glacier seems like an apt comparison because it’s cool, smooth and pervasive but it’s also subtly destructive at the same time. Tricorn and Queue always have a counterpoint, something that chisels away at the smoothness a bit. Though it may not have the power to flood the world with ecstasy like the first piece, it’s a fine effort.
On the flip, “Stone Fleets Home” leads off. This sounds more aquatic to my ear. I may be psyching myself out a bit but I think there may even be a recording of water in there somewhere as well. This one seems a bit more synth-led but it could easily be blissed-out guitar that I’m hearing. Actually that’s probably it the more I think about it. That piece is over relatively quickly before moving into the finale “Triangled Goldflower/Apache Radiation”. Dude, I don’t know what “Apache radiation” is but I wanna find out. This piece returns to the style of the beginning of the tape. A strange collection of all sorts of sounds, not really smashed together but “lumped” I guess would a better word. There’s a pseudo-choir sound that I’m loving, as well as a lo-fi blues guitar that pops out for a few notes and lots of other cool sounds I’ll leave to your imagination. All the elements cycling in and out make for a dizzying swirl of sound. Always mellow, never boring. Which works pretty well as a descriptor for the tape in general.
I’ve been seeing this Xiphiidae name around town a lot after I got this tape but I had never heard of the project before hearing this little baby. I wouldn’t be surprised if Xiphiidae got a bunch of record deals based on this tape alone. This tape is less airy and about a third of the length of the Tricorn & Q, instead creating a tad bit fuller sound. Lots of glistening sound waves from all kinds of sources. This project seems to be heavier on the synths, though there are some other sounds pushed down a lot I can’t quite pick out. Throughout the side a new set of tones will swoop down to displace another only to be displaced minutes later. I know this is all a bit vague but it’s tricky to pin down all the sounds/phases the track holds in its 7 minutes. The other side is cut from the same piece of cloth though the instrumentation varies a little and the track as whole seems slightly less cloudy. There’s a real nice period on the side where an elegant lo-pitched tone glides along while a crackly hi-pitched din floats on top giving way to chimes and other murkiness.
Two phenomenal releases for fans of tapes, drone and natural highs. Housecraft does an amazing job with packaging and these two are cases in point. Tapestry Head Ban has two-layer j-card with printed vellum and a piece of material soaked with color. Really nice looking. It also comes with an insert and tape labels. Bronze Hut comes with a hand-made collaged j-card and tape labels as well. Both tapes are out of print but I’ve seen copies around at a few distros, if you're interested. I’d also recommend just buying some of the new Housecraft stuff cause it looks rad and is sure to be nice on your wallet and your ears.