The Rebels Fold Scratchy, Relaxed Meanings Into Their Smallest Actions by Howard Stelzer & Frans de Waard

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Howard Stelzer & Frans de Waard
The Rebels Fold Scratchy, Relaxed Meanings Into Their Smallest Actions (Park 70; CS/DL)

This is an interesting premise for another collaboration by these two venerable experimenters, a recording that blends parts and pieces from their many collaborations over two decades. What’s more, they entrusted a Knoxville-based start-up, cassette-only imprint Park 70, to put it out into the world in an edition of only 50. With two untitled tracks (other than Side A + Side B) running for about 17 and 15 minutes respectively, let’s tune in…

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At first the industrial space simply appears as if it were an air vent capturing tiny particles, but then some type of rotor whirs like a refrigeration unit on the blink while tiny actions are performed at random. This repeating cyclical sound comes off like heavy winds amid a frozen tundra in Siberia or some nearly inhabitable place. The tinny pitch scrapes and circles in stratagem, but to what end is still veiled. The premise that these two would mashup bits from their previous cutting room scraps makes me excited, but the outcome seems to defy anything less than seamless – mind you they are both experienced sound collage artists. Though this is far from easy listening, it takes a contained rummaging (percussion) to capture a level of stimulating focus. The end result sounds like a cross between a box full of angry turtles and a lengthy root canal. It’s low-level sinister goings-on built on suction and jerking revelry. There are no stops/starts here, just full-on activity. Crunching, mashing, all aerated in a puzzling harsh mix of layers. The final few minutes has a depressed volume but no let up to their exertion of morphing energy. At the very end circular hollows are revealed, turning into the last audible granules.

Side B emerges more broadly, more of a galactic-style in atmosphere and spills forth with drone and circumstance. The bass low and stirring upper treble cause for a rounded timbre that’s notably dimensional. Holding this pattern for several minutes the sound becomes centering upon the senses, like a distant storm brewing. The vague distortions start to lose their rough edges at the nine minute mark, though a thin additional sound wall layer seems to part from the central portion, stripping itself away indelicately but with subliminal stealthiness. Unless you are used to deep listening it would hardly be noticeable. The entire spectrum starts to flatten out and faint electronic voices are embedded in the mix as this washes over like an elusive white noise. The suction returns and clears the air of the ball of din in the final minute or so. We are left with something quite open-ended. In the end I venture to say that this is a conundrum of noise, likely the most difficult music (for difficult times?) that these two have ever collaborated on.

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