Sunday, November 23, 2008

Blood on Tape – Untitled [Softland City]

Blood on Tape hails from Austin, TX. This is their first release as well as the first release on their label, Softland City. The duo is not audio-violent as the name implies but is instead relentlessly mellow and full of space.
The tape’s first piece, “In Sea”, sounds great stretched across the side of a c48. Relatively little “happens” but everything is done with such a sense of purpose that it’s captivating. There are a couple gently swelling looped sounds that last for the entire track and various elements are sprinkled throughout, mainly sparse percussion and splashes of guitar that are added or stripped at just the right moments. Impressive for a first release, because the duo have a firm handle on drone, both how to construct it as well as knowing what they want to do with it. There’s a definite emphasis on melody in the piece but it isn’t shown in any overt way; there is a willingness to stretch that skeletal melody as far as it will go. The confidence in restraint works wonders here, the result being effortless and spacious, gentle but half hidden in gloomy shadows. Great piece.
The flipside contains 3 shorter tracks and less of a focus on minimalism. “Feelin’ Fine” features a guitar neck-deep in tremolo and either an accordion or chord organ of some sort. The piece is mostly a straight duet between those instruments though at a few points there appear to me some overdubs/loops. Again, the melodic sensibilities are the strong suit of the track. “By Design” is my favorite track from the second side. It works as some combination of “In Sea” and the previous piece. That reed/keyed instrument playing over a slow swelter of drones with flute-like swoops and percussive scratching (not on turntables) and well placed cymbal crashes. A guitar slides in and mingles with the reed organ in the track’s second half. And begins a brilliant movement with a simple arpeggio and additional acoustic slide guitar which unfortunately signals the end of the track; it’s a wonderful ending though. “The Land is Great” is the tape’s finale and marks a return to the temple for Blood on Tape. The piece is much more maximal than the first side, with a few shrieking cries and echoing breaks of static against a solemn, tightly wound bed of sustain. There’s a little bit of vocals too which is their first appearance on the album I believe. The voices split their time between melancholic moans and semi-joyous whoops. All in all, a strong debut and a sign of good things to come.
The tape is limited to 50 copies so hurry if you’re interested. The black tape comes wrapped in a suitably ghostly shroud with an insert.

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