Thomas Carnacki - The disappearance of this terrible spool [Alethiometer Records - 2010]A neat little pro-printed and pro-duplicated package, with very elegant photography, on Alethiometer Records. (Isn’t an alethiometer that device from Phillip Pullman’s "His Dark Materials" trilogy..? I think it is.) The cd has four tracks, all about six to eight minutes long; bar the third, which is a wee two minutes.
It starts and immediately I assume I’m in Stars Of The Lid/Thomas Koner territory. Huge cavernous tones and drones. But then very small, scrapey, percussive sounds appear; close mic-ed and processed in the foreground of the drones. I’m not sure how I feel about this juxtaposition - I think maybe each element detracts from the other. Halfway through the track, a submerged melody seems to appear, with bell and metal sounds resonating; whereupon the overshadowing drones drop out, leaving a skeleton of clacking noises and echoing metals. The drones return after this, but with less murk and darkness; they’re lighter, nearly ethereal. To accompany this, the clatter of the junk sounds increases in agitation and volume; till they disappear altogether and the cloudy drones drift into silence.
The second track, “The Fall Of Wappinger”, starts with even thicker drones, teetering on becoming noise; but soon, the violin that was hidden there from the start, emerges from the squall and assumes central position. I say central position, but actually its processed through a panning delay - which as far as my ears can tell, isn’t tweaked at any point. This becomes an annoyance as the track progresses; it doesn’t appear to serve any conceptual purpose, so it just feels like laziness…
With both the first two tracks, I wonder if, broadly speaking, the background drones and foreground sounds would be better separated. The monolithic nature of the drones is somewhat diminished by the foreground elements; and, conversely, the detail of those foreground sounds is sometimes lost in the cloud of the drones. Though this might just be my personal aesthetic preference speaking.
I don’t know what to make of the third and shortest track “Ecstasy, Vaguely Porous (A Palindrome)” - its best described as a vocal sample, or source, subjected to effects and stuttering. I have to be clear on “stuttering” - it doesn’t have the visceral power of a cut-up, nor does it feel like the work of, for example, a tape composer. It sounds a bit like a radio being tuned, but a radio where every channel is playing that same sample/source. There is some processing to be heard, and indeed, halfway through the stuttering is filtered into beautiful trebly washes; but it still leaves me essentially cold. It may have conceptual significance, but none I can scry.
The last track is probably the most engaging: a faster-moving jumble, using sounds similar to the earlier tracks. After a few minutes, a confusing arrhythmic bass blip appears, possibly coupled to a looping piano run. These both have the effect of “busying up” the soundscape; detracting from the bed of creaking sounds around them, without adding much at all. “Gansevoort Two-Step” ends with what sounds like mangled vocal samples, pitched up and metallic; throwing them into the path of juddering stabs of distortion.
There’s a really good palette of sounds on this release, tailor-made to be fashioned into an excellent soundtrack for something; but I don’t feel that the structures and constructions on “The Disappearance Of This Terrible Spool” really show those sounds in their best light.Martin P