Gaze - III [Teen Action Records - 2011]‘III’ is the fourth release in three years from Oakland’s Gaze, a trio of analogue synth experimentalists. Despite the sleeve listing three different names (Ned Flangers, Ron Spoones and Mikael Widener), it’s apparently the work of Collin McKelvey (who also plays as Orbless, Slaughtering Dolphins and Liminal Planes), ex-The Hospitals and Eat Skull guitarist Ned Meiners and Corey Hucks (AKA California Priest and Timeblazers). Together they play the sort of space rock meets noise improv made popular by fellow West Coasters Emeralds, but, on the evidence of this tape, the emphasis is firmly on the latter.
Side A of this C60 materialises straight into the middle of what sounds like warring intergalactic forces. Stomping, squelching unstable synth tones are attacked by surging buzzes and tweets to form a violent science fiction meltdown that for nine or so minutes threatens to remain a formless mash of analogue machines left to their own devices. But by the mid-point of this 26 minute extract, presumably culled from a live and improvised session, the battlezone is abandoned on a soaring drone as a repeating melodic passage of short synth tones emerges from the chaos, like a kind of fried version of the finale of Close Encounters. Arching synth tones ensue coalescing to form patterns, albeit scribbly loose ones, as instability threatens once more.
This dredging-a-river-of-sound approach continues on the second side with two further fragments. The first of which features discernible distorted guitar textures that, combined with the backwards sliding cymbals, sci-fi synth noodling and alien voices, firmly recall Space Ritual-era Hawkwind’s cosmic jams. The closing piece gets a shuddering arpeggiation to dodge laser fire as the pooled pulsations gradually form a cloud that seems to absorb time: having set its stall early on the latter half of the recording can drift almost unnoticeably.
Although the cassette format fits with Gaze’s supposed pure analogue ideal the separate sounds do tend to melt into each other through the bonding properties of tape hiss. But despite the lack of distinction it’s still a wild and heady ride should you take the group’s name as the appropriate mode of engagement.Russell Cuzner