Howard Stelzer - Across The Blazer [Marginal Frequency - 2019]From October last year here’s a two-track album from one of the more original & distinctive figures in experimental sound Howard Stelzer-a Lowell MA-based sound creator whose work blurs the line between drone, noise, electro-acoustic texturing, and field recording.
The release appeared as either a CD or digital download- with the CD coming in an eye-catching card gatefold that takes in what looks like a slide of close-up blood work- which nicely fits the often organic feel of some of the sonic work found with-in.
Stelzer has been active since the late 1990s, and while he’s not as prolific as some in the noise/ drone scene- whenever he puts anything out it’s clear he puts a lot of time, effort and thought into each release. And each release I’ve heard from him has that unmistakable sonic vibe- which really doesn’t sound like anyone else, and is very difficult to pigeon hole under one genre tag.
In total Across The Blazer has a total runtime of forty-one minutes- and the first track “Selective Memory (You Never Know Absolutely Quite Where You Are)” is the shorter of the two tracks at 13.07. This first track is very much where the organic elements appear- as to start with we find a blend of buddling & light knocking tones which sound like close up liquid recordings- around these are lulling & pleasing murky sounds which could be the distant sound of rain wash & wind hiss. As the track goes on you seemingly get pulled deeper & deeper in, as more buffeting wind sound is added- there a mid-range battering, and a higher-pitched slicing tone- and these really start to blend & morph into the initial sounds- so what first sounded intimate & enclosed now feels like we're been lashed by choppy sea waters. As we go further into the work we start to even more pronounce almost noise drone bound buffeting occurring, and this is added to by the increase of swiping or lashing textures which are added into the mix in both subtle-yet-masterful building manner. In the tracks, last quarter he skillful recedes and pare backs the sounds, as we once more move towards the more intimately aquatic.
Next, we have the title track, and this slides in at just shy of the twenty-eight-minute mark. To begin with, we find a bright rising wavering drone, this is blended by murky darts of what could be modified muzak and womb-like ramble. As we move into the third minute the whole starts thing to sound more threatening & tense, as the wavering drone becomes more stretched & taut, also we now get this struggling-yet- wavering harmonic tone- as well as layers of occasionally buried snap, and what could well be train rail slice ‘n’ switch. With the track, Stelzer is creating this truly huge mass of sound, which seems to trickle & fleet with so many different elements- but instead of sounding muddled and incorrect it sounds wonderful powerful, and at moments almost simmering hymn-like in its huge wall like grandeur. By around the 10th minute, the layers start to slightly thin back/recedes and we get this wonderful simmering sustain coming to the fore- it feels like powerful rays of sunlight breaking through clouds, and causing you to squint slightly. Later on, Stelzer adds in the rapid buffeting ‘n’ rattling texture- which is once again blurred, and this feels like listening to torrential rain on a sunning day inside a glass corridor, with the dense showers lashing as your eyes squint from the bright sunshine- really breathtaking stuff.
Across The Blazer is another great example of Mr. Stelzer distinct sound worlds- with each of the two tracks offering up something slightly different, yet each feeding into his one-off way of composing and working with sound. I don’t think I’ve ever been let down or disappointed by anything Stelzer has put out, and Across The Blazer is once again extremely worthy. So if you enjoy the place where drone, noise, & sound art meet you really have to check out this CD, and if you already familiar with Mr. Stelzer be prepared to be impressed as usual by this very skillful & original sound artists.Roger Batty