Howard Stelzer | Across the Blazer
Marginal Frequency (CD/DL)
‘Tis the season for something new from Boston area cassette deck master Howard Stelzer, and Across the Blazer brings with it a whole new set of intriguing atmospheres. This is also my introduction to the fledgling imprint, Marginal Frequency from my old haunts of the Pacific Northwest – my guess is we will be hearing a great deal of expertly curated work out of this joint. The rainy hiss and low grumbling drone on the quizically titled Selective Memory (You Never Know Absolutely Quite Where You Are) is head-expanding, and at a certain volume will energize your body with a series of pulsations. It’s far more physical and imbued with a constant taming of constrained tension than other works in Stelzer’s catalogue. There is some sort of conceptual mystique here playing on cellular depths as referred to by the platelet blobs on the coverart, it’s a dazzling microscopic, clustered array. On these granualized field recordings Stelzer plays with a gradual morphing of the internal and surface structures.
These works were generated from tape music produced between 2015-2017 during various performances at festivals and galleries on the East Coast (NY, MA). Not since his early works, two decades ago, via his own Intransitive label, have I actually “heard” his sense of urgency so intensely (other than when I’ve seen him live on a rare occasion). Stelzer is a regular collaborator with other artists, so it is nice to hear him stripped down to a solo work with so much insight while still seemingly asking questions of the universe.
On the title piece that runs nearly a half hour, the setting does not shift too dramatically, though seems a bit sharper, brighter and more elongated. This comes off like an effervescent, ever-flowing percussive din that grows, retreats slightly, grows again and repeats with a clear sense of determination and affirmative flow. The drone hovers in the grey zone, and that allows him to expand/contract his other striations that would likely be fitting alongside a similar live format as colleague Francisco López. The noise wall rises, erupts but instead of chaos, he is shaping the velocity throughout. It’s a journey of ebb/flow, and he conducts this lithe and sculptural abyss with an assertive precision and a dash of cosmic zealousness.