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Crystal Plumage - Night Conference [Sincope - 2012]

Italian label Sincope presents the cassette Night Conference by European duo Crystal Plumage. Ostensibly named after the Argento film, Crystal Plumage is a collaboration between Benjamin L. Aman from France (guitars and electronics) and Sean F. Barrett from Germany (electronics & synth).

I'm not familiar with either Sincope or the band itself, but the aesthetics of the cassette piqued my interest. It's just a standard norelco case and j-card, but the grainy, black and white image of a man in deep thought caught my attention. I don't know, something about it seems sterile and emotionless, which I strangely gravitate towards. Plus the mysterious title Night Conference just seems like a perfectly fitting accompaniment to the art as the figure on the cover seems intently listening in on a lecture. But what does it sound like you ask?

It just so happens that the music presented on this short tape (c30) is exactly what I've been listening to a lot lately, namely minimalistic synth drone. And Crystal Plumage manage to produce those sounds to near perfection. Side A starts with a long and steady electronic hum that continues for several minutes. Reverberating synth pulses join the drone, adding darker overtones to this already nocturnal piece. The duo manage to evoke a very sinister mood,cold and calculating, through the use of really simple layering of sounds. Near the end of the track a guitar makes it's presence known, producing it's own effective reverberations. Then it ends abruptly.

Side B starts off a little more active than the first track, though certainly maintaining the same formula. There's more minimal electronic reverberations, coupled with longer synth washes. That's all great, but my favorite part of the track takes place several minutes in. The electronics recede and there is a long passage of: junk rustling, shutting doors, voices, clicking, clanking, and other human activity. This takes up much of the track's mid section. The final 1/3 of the track reverts back to the electronics with a dark synth rumble, a brighter wobbly synth sound, wide laser synth pulses, and a garbled robot voice.

This short cassette is a real gem, which I'm very happy to have discovered. This release is by far one of the most pleasant surprises I've stumbled across in my current review pile. This is limited to 50 copies and was released in 2012, so I'm not sure about it's availability. But if synthy drone is your cup of tea, you can do no better than Crystal Plumage.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Hal Harmon
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