In The Tape Deck this month, Nooga.com spends time with cassettes from Arthur Dent and Deeper Than Space, Andreas Brandal, Monte Burrows, and Hattie Cooke.
Arthur Dent and Deeper Than Space, "Drift"
Dominic Cramp and Adam Douglas—the respective alter egos of Arthur Dent and Deeper Than Space—have a way of revealing the diverse rhythmic foundations of any sound that happens to float within their grasp. Electronic music has always been notably suggestive of the imaginations of individual musicians, with certain strands of sound seeming to come from a realm of unconscious musical creation. These melodies, patterns and tones may be wired through synthetic means, but it's the core relationship between emotion, experience and technology that drives it to explore some meaningful connection with its audience. And through this often-tenuous commonality, musicians such as Cramp and Douglas are able to draw from a deep well of communal sentiment.
Bonding Tapes has recently released a reissue of Arthur Dent and Deeper Than Space's ambient album, "Drift." Known for its fractured electronics and droning rhythms, it was originally released in 1995, a product of both artists' interpretation of Deleuvian philosophical perspectives. But it is more than just interpretation and introspection. These sounds represent a particularly vivid musical mindset, one that stresses tangible rhythmic constructs or ethereal suggestions. This record is more experimental than ambient, although there's little in the way of any sort of conceptual difference for these artists. "Drift" is exactly what its title suggests—a series of open-ended circuital motions that catch you off guard before quickly pulling you beneath its surface.
Andreas Brandal, "Flames and Ether"
Hailing from Bergen, Norway, Andreas Brandal has been creating experimental music with various bands since the late '80s, but it wasn't until 1994 that he released his first solo record, a cassette simply titled "Tape 1." Since then, he's been sharing tapes, singles and CDs full of electronic deconstructions and ambient expulsions with a devoted following of fans. Expressing a fondness for both noise and traditional instruments, Brandal works at merging these two seemingly incongruent disciplines, with his releases evolving as his own understanding of the relationship between these sounds grows. Able to explore these gauzy borders without losing track of each individual influence, he forms a forceful and progressive sound that refuses to be easily labeled or categorized.
On his new release, "Flames and Ether," Brandal constructs woozy ambient pop songs that disintegrate before your eyes and ears. Using a far more structured approach than many of his electronic peers, he emphasizes the necessary interplay between the organic and artificial natures of his work. These songs flow easily from one moment to the next, a beautiful progression of sound and rhythmic temperament that brings out the personality inherent to each of these tracks. "Flames and Ether" offers both an opaque viewpoint on musical interconnectivity and a melodic clarity that would feel completely at odds with each other in anyone else's hands—but Brandal brings these disparate ideas together in one uncanny and utterly reflective set of songs.
Monte Burrows, "The Concentration of Brown Owls"
Monte Burrows is an electronic artist whose work revels in collapse, in the gradual deconstruction of established sounds and musical tradition. Bathed in erratic rhythms and frayed circuitry, and wound together in an austere synthetic environment, his past songs have conveyed ideas of decay and mutated evolution. Spare at times and furiously eccentric at others, his music unravels and transforms individual pieces of sound until there’s scarcely anything left. But it’s precisely this transformative aspect of his music that allows for such a creative dissolution of pattern and tone.
Released by new cassette imprint Dinzu Artefacts, his latest collection of songs, "The Concentration of Brown Owls," is a masterpiece of freeform composition. Burrows establishes a wiry electronic presence through a series of found sound collages and atmospheric flourishes—in this case, it’s a recurring piano sequence that deftly maneuvers through a variety of city noises and avian clatter. The listener is submerged in static and a hiss-filled vapor that permeates every surface. Burrows effortlessly weaves a gently cacophonous web of melody and aberrant rhythm that is as fascinating as it is all-encompassing.
Hattie Cooke (self-titled)
Brighton, England-based singer-songwriter Hattie Cooke uses the nostalgia of classic indie rock and the warbling breeze of electronica to fashion a sound that feels remarkably relevant while looking back to the relative simplicity of the early ’90s. Her work doesn’t attempt to reinvent or tear apart any genre—it simply channels these influences into a wonderfully articulate perspective on how specific musical movements meld with one another. Cooke dispenses with any false emotionality in her music and hones in on an honest sentiment that slowly reveals itself over the course of a few minutes.
On her new self-titled album, Cooke evokes the wide-eyed introspection of Frankie Cosmos while also exploring the reverberating synth pop of CHVRCHES. Across these songs, she evinces a natural sense of conversational melody, even when the music is steeped in synthetic beats and textures. Her ability to weed through a number of influences and create something that possesses a coherent frame of reference is remarkable—the sounds just seem to slip from her fingers with a casual ease. Listening to this tape, you get an idea of the process behind her work, which builds incrementally and lovingly through an evolution of pop, indie rock and synth-based aesthetics.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.