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3 October 2017

Idea Fire Company - 'The Island of Taste' (Swill Radio)

The Island of Taste is beautiful, gentle, and mysterious. Within the passages of its rotation lie rippling currents of sensation, shuddering rumbles, and delicate accents. In the hop, skip and jump through their discography that's represented in the sample that I own, this is where it feels like a summation. The relentless probing of Anti-Natural, the spacious negotiations of Stranded and the slabs of laminal elegance of Beauty School are perfectly balanced, supporting each other by only their own weight, which is actually nothing. The title and cover already take you to a place that keeps lifting, much like the way 'Heroes' on the previous album does (and that track is revisited with great fanfare here, not so much covered but extended as 'Heroes of the Last Barricade', substituting absence for the warmth of the voices, though they remain here, faintly, as a tease). The title track is simplistic in construction (extremely minimal sampler hiss, field recordings of birds, and a few carefully reverberating piano notes) but utterly fucking transcendental in execution. There's conventional aesthetic moves at play, for sure; dramatic movement, cautious interplay, phenomenal details (the scrapes of Tibetan bowl in 'Land Ho!'; the occasional garbled lighting in 'Heroes of the Last Barricade') and closure. I don't usually look online for secondary material while listening or writing this stuff, except when I do, but I found a blurb from Swill Radio's own press release, where Foust (I assume) declares this the third part of a trilogy with the two previous records I covered here. I can see (hear?) that – that these three records work together as a larger whole – but what jumps out even more from the blurb is the line 'perhaps the first LP to make explicit a certain nostalgia for itself'. This clever turn of phrase does wonders to recast the copious static and artificial antiquarian vibes saturating these tracks, and this is 2008 when this tendency in electronic music was just starting to peak. Now there's entire books written about 'hauntology' and the sound of artists like the Caretaker, that one Black to Comm album, etc; that's postmodern nostalgia where there's an implicit acknowledgement that the future isn't happening anymore, or maybe that our idea of the future was better in the past. The Island of Taste sidesteps that by distancing itself from any cultural touchstones; static itself is just a tool, one that's been on Idea Fire Company records before and since, and that would just be a shortcut to generating cheap nostalgia-effects anyway. No, I think what Borecky and Foust (and others - Frans de Waard, Graham Lambkin, Richard Rupenus and Dr. Timothy Shortell guest in addition to the expanded Swenson/O'Reilly lineup as heard on Stranded) have achieved here is the creation of a totally idiosyncratic and individual soundworld that (despite its often stark n' spare palette) is so complete in its vision that an infinite number of possible permutations is not only imaginable, but almost forcefully shoved into my imagination, purely by what's NOT heard on this record. 'Bitter Victories', for example, is a solo Foust synth track of a searing, circular drone that is elliptical yet mostly horizontal, unceasing in its intensity, and relatively dense compared to the rest of the record. Yet somehow, in less than three minutes, it conjures a universe of possibilities and then rests on its brief, sampled representation. There's a beautiful set of postcards inside with another stunning manifesto, but I'll leave that for you to discover on your own - $16 can still get you a copy of this from Swill Radio.

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