Begin with a 20-year old box of cassette tapes that capture your old band’s rehearsals. Digitize them, and in doing so accidentally route them through “a jumble of digital filters and delays,” making the sounds overlap and layer. Consider that moment as your stepping-off point for a musical exploration of the mind’s short-term, echoic memory. Result: Echoic, 42 minutes of misty drones that, outside of the opening moments of the first track, bear no resemblance to their source materials. Very little memory of the original is left after Stephen Christopher Stamper is done manipulating the sounds. Instead, we are given a collection of hypnotic structures with a minimalist amount of shift and churn. In places they become large, dense things that take over your head by filling it with big amounts of sound. The first track, “There,” balances on the edge in this, but stays just to the passive side of aggressive. On the other hand, “Out,” the closing track, grows continuously into an overwhelming storm of near-white noise. In other places, as on “Original,” the sounds are sparse and ghostly. On that track, Stamper gives voices from the original tapes more presence, but keeps them just far enough out of aural focus to make you feel a little like you’re eavesdropping. “Bark” finds a half-buried rhythm to work into its ambient flow, but it’s so nicely downplayed it almost becomes subliminal. I like this track, but something in the way its elements come together causes there to be some borderline awkward sound drops, like rough tape edits, mostly late in the piece. It may be on purpose but it’s just enough of a bump to take me out of an otherwise deep ride.
Drone enthusiasts are going to find a lot to like on Echoic. It has a distinct dynamic, shifting constantly and patiently, and Stamper gets down to some very small detail work to add texture. As a background listen, the whispering quality of the sounds goes a long way toward quieting a space. It’s one of those works that will subtly get your attention in new places each time you listen. Loop this in headphones if you’re in the mood for a brain massage—well, until you get to that last track, which will most certainly wake you from your drone-fed reverie. This is well worth diving into and letting it flow.
Available from A Companion of Owls.
Zachary Corsa: fuzzy subtle blown-out drone loop layer
Stephen Christopher Stamper: Finnish forest, some kids & a moose horn
Scott Vaiskauckas: drO)))ne [guitar] jam
Mining the same shoebox full of old cassette tapes that formed the bedrock of my last album Echoic, Loop (Fade In/Out) chips a few seconds off a 20+ year old rehearsal tape, slows it down, and loops it into eternity.
Panasonic RX-FT600 (Cassette Tape Source) -> Tandberg Series 15 (Reel-to-Reel Tape Loop) -> Boss Dr. Sample SP-303 (Reverb) -> Panasonic RX-FT600 (Cassette Tape Recorder) -> Boss Dr. Sample SP-303 (Isolator) -> Zoom H2 Handy Recorder (Digital Recorder) -> Apple MacBook Pro (Normalise + Fade In/Out)
Musicians on original rehearsal tape:
Ian Clementson (Bass)
Martin Colborn (Guitar)
Adam Hodgson (Keyboards)
Anton Schubert (Guitar)
Stephen Christopher Stamper (Drums)
Track re-made and re-modelled by Stephen Christopher Stamper.
Photography by Adam Hodgson.
Artwork by Stephen Christopher Stamper.
An audio piece consisting of a loop of birdsong passed through a “side-chain” gate triggered by a geiger counter. Whenever the geiger counter triggers the gate a tiny piece of the loop is “ducked” (silenced). Eventually all traces of the birdsong will be erased from the loop.
This piece was inspired by an article in Scientific American where biologists are researching the effects of low-dose radiation on living things by studying common barn swallows within the exclusion zones of both Chernobyl and Fukushima.
For this test recording I made a mock-up of the piece in Pure Data:
Another two entries into my ongoing Tandberg Loops collection! This time I took advantage of the Tandberg Series 15’s Free HD output at the back: an unamplified, unequalised output of the machine’s lower tape head. I fed this through a small mic preamp into a battery-powered Roland speaker with built-in reverb. I then thread a loop around the take-up reel into the machine, bypassing the pinch roller and allowing the take-up reel to drag and bounce the loop over the tape head. What you hear in these recordings is one track on the loop played through the upper tape head out of the Tandberg’s built-in speaker (with no effects) and a second (reversed) track played through the lower tape head into the battery-powered speaker (with reverb).
This is the latest entry into my ongoing Tandberg Loops series. What started out as a simple experiment with a short loop from the Berberian Sound Studio soundtrack slowly grew into an elegy for Broadcast’s Trish Keenan (1968-2011). I hope the artist Matthew Bamber doesn’t mind my, um, “borrowing” of his piece Trish Keenan (2011) for the artwork…