Monday, January 10, 2011

56k - VR42C-1 [Field Studies]/White Prism - Vertical Trace [Field Studies]

These two tapes are some of the first releases from a very promising young label out of Chicago called Field Studies. Each of these projects involve Josh Burke too, so Field Studies ain't doin' too bad for themselves.
56k is yet another moniker for Mr. Burke in solo mode. He keeps things pretty brief here moving though 6 pieces of exploratory synth work in 20 minutes. "Calls in the Night" fades in with a nice groove, insistent yet unhurried. Stringy, filtered synths weave their way around, getting tangled in the beat. The piece doesn't really get developed at all, but it doesn't really need to be either. "The Monitor" spikes the new-new age vein versus the cyborg cruisin' of the first piece. Chilly keyboards flutter like seagulls and pretty soon we're onto the placid "One Life" which absolutely feels like something DJ Shadow might have sampled for Endtroducing... if, you know, it had existed back then and he was into limited edition tapes. Gleaming globules of synth merge and spread coating the inside of the skull like cigarette smoke coats yr lungs. "Vibrations" continues along the same path, but it somehow has more of a twinkle in its eye as it soars along on its magnetic strip.
The next side kicks off with the aptly titled "Software Mind" which sounds a little thicker and more expansive than the last bunch of tracks. A bubbly sequencer percolates through the ultraglide synths crashing the party with a curveball. Well, "crash" is an overstatement, it's more just like it hangs around in the bushes outside the party. Either way, it's a nice piece. Kind of like the first side, my favorite track is the odd man out. "Create" is the best cut of the tape, a cascading, shining shrine of keyboard effervescence. Lovely melodies tumble into themselves endlessly making the wishing well deeper and more magical by the second. Great call to make it the finale.
White Prism finds Burke joined by Ben Billington, drummer in the killer free jazz trio Tiger Hatchery. As far as his work outside TH goes, I've heard his gnarly, exhausting 92 minute drum solo as part of the Brave Grave series on 905 Tapes but I've yet to hear Quicksails, a synth/percussion project of sorts that I'm guessing has more in common with White Prism than Billington's work elsewhere.
Vertical Trace is more elongated that the 56k tape as it spreads 3 pieces over a half hour. Otherwise it has a very similar feel to that tape, muted blue-grey sustain as the cover art implies buffered by spacey but tasteful textures. Where I think White Prism maybe takes a little bit of an edge over VR42C-1, and this may just be do to having an additional brain at work, is that there's a little more depth and subtle details that reveal themselves after multiple listens. (That said I think 56k may be my pick between the two.) "Paramnesia"the first piece is very soothing, managing to be weightless without letting itself get too adrift and aimless. Over the side long duration, the piece covers a good amount without straying too far from the signpost they initially started at. Coming out of the misty keyboard dew, the track slides out on a sequenced synth melody.
"Above the Dream Grid" picks up where Side A left off eventually leveling off into placid keyboard ruminations. The piece does settle into an impeccably lovely lilting melody which seems to float just out of reach until cleanly evaporating. One the best moments of the tape to be sure. "Shadowcrest" is the most robust piece here and the darkest as well. While the others aimed close to the ethereal bullseye, "Shadowcrest" allows itself to get enveloped in darker, nearly hissing synth tones. Who would have thought White Prism would end in a black hole.
Both tapes are pro-dubbed, in nice packages with a good dose of geometric shapes, planes and lines. Each is still in print and limited to 100. If this is yr steez, get a move on.

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