SEC_/Micromelancolié & Youniverse - S / PL / IT [Quasi Pop - 2013]Here’s what we old folks call a “cassette single”, though, technically, I suppose its an EP. The tape - in a wraparound cardboard cover, with insert - plays the same both sides: one ten minute track from SEC_, and two pieces from Micromelancolié & Youniverse which amount to the same duration. Theres a pleasingly “low-budget” and archaic feel to the packaging and artwork, which makes it look like a forgotten electroacoustic transmission from eastern Europe.
SEC_’s piece is up first, and very nice it is too. Created primarily using a reel-to-reel and no-input mixer feedback, “Running Dog” is a work of careful construction and manipulation. Its comprised of small sections and dynamics, all very effectively paced and composed; with low end throbs, noisy clicks, piercing treble and a wealth of the distressed tones you might associate with no-input material. Halfway through the piece, heavy, thudding loops appear; producing a slow techno noise thats very reminiscent of the dilapidated work of Emptyset. The track finds it way to an end via treble stabs, slowly oscillating feedback and sounds like massed bird cries. Its a very effective piece, indeed. Fashioned from such stark, basic electronic sounds, and with its techno-esque mid-section, it actually makes me imagine a 1950s Pan Sonic - which can’t be a bad thing…
Micromelancolié & Youniverse offer two tracks, each around the five minute mark and each fashioned using similar tools (“no-input, sampler, dictaphone” and “guitar, percussion, electronics”). “Gravity Boat #2.1 & #2.2” are both cut from live sessions, and are much the same in terms of strategy and sounds. The general tone of the pieces is the creation of an abstract collage, or soup, of sounds - theres no real dynamics or jolting structural developments, here; just a constant layering of sounds. These sounds range from tones not too dissimilar from SEC_, to birdsong recordings, glitchy electronics, dub bass-like guitar and a somewhat unpleasant drum machine. This latter, unconvincing, element is initially buried in the mix (on “…#2.1”); but later emerges loudly as a very straight 4/4 beat, adding nothing useful at all to the composition. Neither track is really very memorable.
Whereas the SEC_ piece patiently unravels, the two Micromelancolié & Youniverse tracks meander nowhere, really. They’re not helped, in this, by the production - and possibly dubbing. The basic sounds of SEC_ actually benefit from the tape fidelity; but Micromelancolié & Youniverse’s production makes a muddy murk, where nothing shines through. Furthering this, I’d have to cast a few suspicions on the actual dubbing of the tapes: my copy is recycled (side b starts with a burst of trite euro-pop), and sections of the tape distort a little. I mention this not so much to criticise a label’s practice, as to explain Micromelancolié & Youniverse’s sound. Martin P