Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blue Shift – Ghost Singers 3 [Breaking World]/Pak – Pak [Breaking World]

A couple more jams from George Myers's phenomenal Breaking World Records label.
Ghost Singers 3 is an odd little tape. I hadn’t heard Blue Shift before this but it turns it’s Providence’s Cybele Collins's solo violin mistreatment project. The first time through I wasn’t sure what to think of this tape but after having listened a number of more times I’ve gotten into it. The tape runs through 12 tracks in 25 minutes and things blur together a bit so fingers crossed I match the right names to the right piece of music. Beginning with “Whistle Run” Collins is doing, I guess, what would be standard playing with a bow and such but the result is a kind of wispy sound with as many overtones, incidental noises, and percussive strikes as there are recognizable violin sounds. “Bored Gun” sounds denser; there’s some layering/looping including what I think is reversed violin. I dig the layered effect because the violin fulfills many purposes filling out the sound, contributing a rhythmic element, general clatter and fleeting melodic touches in the track’s too $hort 30 seconds. “Having a Conversation” has weird multi-tracked manipulated vocals with stuttering violin accompaniment. I certainly wouldn’t call the track “melodic” but there are flashes of melody in the warble and scrape affair that add an odd beauty to the piece. The title-track reminds me of Carter Burwell’s score of Fargo a bit with some eastern (European) influence maybe? It’s a rather pleasant, too-brief piece. “Feather Duster” returns to some vicious sawing and scraping getting some really sharp edged squealing tones from the violin. “Belonging Pit” is similar but much less frantic and features a breakdown of sorts with 3 or 4 tracks of violin all moving in seriously different directions. It’s a really interesting listen, especially with head phones, and I have fun attempting the probably impossible task of following one of the tangled tendrils through the course of the song. “I Want an Accident” closes the first side with a legitimately groovy (jeez do I need a new adjective for that sort of thing) backwards loop and violin overlaid. Actually scratch that. Cause another track just came on, so I fucked up the track names somewhere in there. Sorry about that, but I’m not about to go back through and figure it out right now. I’m having too much fun listening. The second side starts off with my favorite track, and probably the most “normal”, “Pin Dance”. The song is pretty coherent and knowingly pretty. Despite tying up most the of loose ends she lets hang in the other tracks, Collins doesn’t sacrifice interesting texture in the least. I’d actually be curious to hear her arrange (and/or write) a traditional classical piece because she has unique skill for forming melodies in unexpected ways. “Warnings” follows with strange skronk more akin to stuff that comes out of Chris Cooper’s guitar than a violin. The track even wraps with a short eastern jig. “Long Underwear” is pretty mellow by comparison marked by a constant bubbling of lower notes with no noticeable hi-end skree. “Ravaged Plains” is another violent sawing exhibit and the finale “Sandpaper Walls” features a lone voice caught in a web of violin clacks and runs before slipping off a reversed violin line. While, admittedly, it didn’t click immediately, Ghost Singers 3 is a unique tape that has rewarded me generously upon repeated listens.
I know next to nothing about Pak other than he’s from the Netherlands apparently. This 3inch CDr is a 15plus minute track of an unrelentingly noisy assault. Not harsh but pretty damn noisy still. Amidst all the static and squeezed/stretched tones, there is a vocal sample that pops occasionally which is one of my favorite parts of track. At least I'm pretty sure it’s a vocal sample, it’s an ecstatic yelp but there’s something about it that feels a bit inhuman as well. Pak keeps the track briskly paced with oscillator whine broken by powerful blasts of hot white noise. There actually may be more vocal samples in here cause the sounds being manipulated have a bizarre vocal quality to my ears. A bit later it definitely sounds like some distorted screams sliced up by the barrage of noise, but who knows what the source actually is. Just when the squealing oscillator stuff is wearing thin Pak breaks it up with a block noise which definitely had some almost chorale sounding vocals. The bummer is that lasts for like 8 seconds and we’re back to the squealing oscillator stuff. I like this but it could certainly stand to be a few minutes shorter and probably a bit more varied. And I’m sure that squealing oscillator thing will have a penchant to drive some people out of their minds, though maybe that's the whole idea.
George Myers made some fantastic artwork for this Blue Shift tape with a melancholy, melting lizard monster on the front cover and a colorful illustration of some weird hippie prayer ritual on the inside. The Pak CD-r comes with a white card board cover with a crooked row of smiling teeth imprinted on it, a little bit creepy. I couldn't get that to scan so I scanned the back cover FYI. The Blue Shift tape is still in print not sure about the Pak cd-r since it came out quite a while ago. I’d email George if yr interested.

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