Cones is a German duo of Datashock members Marcel Turkowsky and Ulf Schutte (who records solo as Diamond Lemonade and runs Tape Tektoniks). This CD-r is their debut for Finnish label Ikuisuus (who’s responsible for the early ’07 gem, Salt of the Sun by Family Underground) and their first release to meet my ears.
From the beginning, Ice Skating Elephants is heavy on the looping which is a good thing to me. The guys put their best foot forward with “Waber Bouncing with Dante Flavour”. Short hi-pitched glitchiness leads way to swirling but synthetic keyboards and a stuttering loop of something of electronic origins. You’re hearing a lot more things than you originally think which certainly engages me. After some close listening you can pick out subtle melodic phrases underneath the static, though their presence is felt with or without conscious recognition. That’s probably what I appreciate most about this track, the complexity of the arrangement. The track is constantly evolving though it’s particularly apparent. It’s hard to describe but every so often I’ll have a realization that “this sounds different than a minute ago” though I didn’t notice how the track got to its new place. As the track begins to wind down, Cones deconstructs the sound, ending similar to how it started with a glitching cacophony. It’s a real nice track, synthetic but with a soul. “Grusel on Ice” is the second piece. It reminds me a bit of some Non-Horse stuff but working from more digital sounding source material. Ikuisuus suggests that “Contact Mics, Tapeloops and Goes, Memorytapes, Fieldrecordings and Electronics” are in the mix, which makes sense because these guys seem to be more about processing sounds than the sounds themselves. This makes it tough on me to accurately describe because the track feels like its moving at light speed. Not that the tempo is fast, but most sounds appear/disappear in a flash, giving the listener little to grab onto. Which can be detrimental in some cases, but not really on this album. The pieces despite their heavily fractured nature are still satisfying to listen to. The shortest track at around 6 minutes is “Ran Style”. It’s a tad more minimal and structured than the previous “Grusel”. Half of it focusing on a looped keyboard line. After that drops out, garbled vocal samples and processed percussion hits takes its place. Though the track is wobbly it has a slow methodical pace. The epic finale semi-title track “Ice Skating Elephants of Frozen Morellas” rolls with a central see sawing keyboard melody as sounds spit, crackle, clink, swell, beep, and stumble around it until it fades. This track is similar to “Grusel” in that there are too many things going on to name but there’s a noticeable (and welcome) bit of lucidity and consonance that works as an excellent foil to the scattered, hyperactive aesthetic. There is a sustaining synth loop buried underneath everything that anchors the stammering squiggliness of the ordeal. This all results in the most pleasant, zen-like moments of the whole CD-r and I, for one, am loving it. A frantic amalgam of beauty and audio psychosis.
This CD-r comes in a slipcase with a cool two-color doublesided design and a cardstock insert. And the good news for everyone is it’s still in print and available from the label.