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11 July 2012

Tod Dockstader - 'Quatermass' (Owl)

Here's a classic of musique concrete where it's wonderful to have the original LP - not just for it's aesthetic value as B&W creepy otherworldly sound artefact, but for the liner notes. Sure, you can probably find them online, but it's wonderful to read them while hearing the nearly 50 year old drones and tones float off the surface of the platter. This is one to listen to with turntable dustcover UP! Quatermass sounds a lot like the other pieces of its time - the San Francisco tape music experiments of Ramon Sender, Pauline Oliveros, etc; the 50s work of Vladimir Ussachevsky and Otto Luenig; and all the other stuff compiled on that Ohm box set from awhile back. It sounds a lot like them in that it's recorded to showcase the new possibilities of oscillators, close-mic'ing everyday objects (Tod says in the liner notes that some of the sounds are just balloons and adhesive tape!) and tape loops. But every one of these artists has their own distinct personality, which is why this is music and not just a technical experiment. Quatermass is a 5-part movement and it begins and ends with 'songs', the term used fairly loosely though there is a harmonic and melodic structure evident. Warbles, wiggles and burps underlie the soaring high-pitched assonance, and it establishes a mood, wrought with drama and lurching. Sometimes it sounds like a gong or some other acoustic percussion is used, often to quickly change the feel of a sequence - there's silence and then space, and the reverberation can take its course before the next sound comes in. When it gets thick, it's never too much - the dense slabs of sound have their place and the more active busy parts all have such clear purpose that it's not a noisy freakout. I love the motion here, particularly in 'Tango', when there's a dizzying array of back and forth. This is a stereo LP, recorded in 1966 though the original tapes were from '64, and I wonder how much variation we get. 'Parade' closes out side 1 with some of the harshest bits, a true cataclysm of darkness, though Dockstader's sci-fi tendencies are quite enjoyable, never as apocalyptic as they could be.

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