Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Black Eagle Child - "Born Underwater" b/w "The Arquebus" [Avant Archive]/Knit Prism - Growing [Avant Archive]

Avant Archive is a brand new label, only a few releases old, run by Mr. Black Eagle Child himself, Michael Jantz. These two tapes by Black Eagle Child and Knit Prism are catalog numbers AA001 and AA002, respectively.
First of all, it's cool Avant Archive has emerged with a fully formed aesthetic, a rigid, rectangular format with matching white cases. This Black Eagle Child cassette features material dating back to 2008. Jantz makes a vague note in the label's description that these recordings come before BEC developed its "compositional process." I'm not really familiar with Black Eagle Child's ouvre, so I can't comment on any differences to later work, but I can say I dig this tape.
Side A, "Born Underwater," starts out with a wonky synth whose slow skronk is reduced to a crackle upon the entrance of keyboard ether and distant field recordings. Further down the road Jantz brings in a music-box-styled melody making for a very odd but definitely delectable arrangement of noises. They flitter along as a looming, fuzzy bass synth drops an authoritative tone. Near the end Jantz digs up a keyboard melody augmented by rubbery synth swoops. From there though, Jantz switchs things up putting all tones into a consonant line with a flood of atmospheric, though not completely soft, drones. Overall, what I love about the piece is the perplexing contradiction it presents; how is it so mellow, so tranquil and so prickly and incongruous?
As the title notes, "Born Underwater" is backed with "The Arquebus" which also starts out just as weird, probably weirder, with a woozy, percussive, pitch-shifted and cut-up guitar. There's some very subtle synth resting in the background but Jantz really pushes the wacky guitar mangling to the forefront. You feel the floor slowly begin to give way as a deep deep deep bass undertow lies just below the surface slowly swollerin' you up. Other than a touch of keyboard/guitar here or there, (always left just outside the frame) that's the bulk of the piece. The side covers less ground than the first but it gets higher points in the sustained mood category. Definitely some focused, furrowed brow, what-is-going-on business here. I am down for sure.
This is the first I've heard of Knit Prism, a project of Mike Pouw who runs the stellar House of Sun label. This tape pulls mellow guitar moves over two sides in under a half hour. The first side "Crooked Drifts" is a dizzy wanderer. Multiple layers of guitar slowly jangle over one another which make for a steady stream of blissful confusion. The strings are all a smoke screen letting a few strong notes harmonically punch through. Some birds cackle at one point but before long we move into the side's second part, a bassier drone fills the spectrum with a few melodic touches trying to squeeze their way in. The fidelity is so smudgy it's hard to tell what's going on but the piece gets nicer and more melodic as it goes on. It gets really nice. There are some lovely melodies which are so far removed yet their essence shines through and colors the thick drones in a wonderful manner.
The flip side is titled "Sentimental Elevations" is more lo-fi guitar ruminations with birds creaking in the background. Before long the tape rattles and warbles and the piece shifts into clearer, intertwining guitar melodies. The melodies grow and grow interlocking and joining up with each other as birdcalls snake through the gaps. The confidence of that section soon disappears into a quieter melody matched up against what sounds like flowing water. Weird rumbles pop up intermittenly, never allowing you to get too comfortable with the gently humming strings.
Avant Archive doesn't do limited editions which is pretty cool, that said though, these are both in stock with a few other tapes. It looks to be a sweet label in the making, check it out.

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