From the seeming hundreds of offshoots from the Wolf Eyes/American Tapes environment, Stare Case is the latest to emerge and is perhaps one of the more confounding. Two-thirds of Wolf Eyes make up this outfit — John Olson (electronics, reeds) and Nate Young (bass, electronics, voice) — but it’s far from being a reduced-by-one noise group. In the past two years, Stare Case have released a slew of ultra-limited cassettes and CD-Rs on the American Tapes label, and Lose Today is their first for De Stijl, which could gain the project a wider audience (whether it matters to them or not). Near the start of Wolf Eyes’ ascendancy, De Stijl released The Beast, a collaboration between the Michigan trio and West Coast communal outfit Smegma, which stands as a high point in the former group’s catalog and was a unique enough project to fit in with the broad mining of the historical present that De Stijl puts forth. Not being “usual” is precisely what intrigued the label to the point that a Stare Case disc seemed like a worthwhile effort as well.
The music of Stare Case, at least on Lose Today, forwards a dark industrial sludge and frustrating delivery in its abbreviated half hour and five tracks. Maracas, looped bass noodling at both high and lower registers, glissandi from an indeterminate source, and stoned lope underpin Young’s snide delivery on “Days Like Faces,” with Olson providing nattering commentary. The presence of zurna (or another non-Western double reed instrument) and a steady increase of electronic fizz adds counterpoint and an overarching discomfort to the proceedings. It would be a stretch to call this music noise in the traditional sense, because though it’s got a rather murky and unsettling vibe, the sounds themselves are quite clearly rendered and the duo’s approach of layered, fairly thin elements creates an open and potentially active framework. The curious thing about Stare Case is what they do with the environment that they create, which is an action that could appear troubled and nihilistic. It’s not that they promote collapse, but on a piece like “First Fire,” wheezy alto saxophone and heaving plugged-in drones stumble into an aimlessness that overtakes any intimations of drive. In fact, this particular composition starts out rather compellingly with an interesting kinetic direction formed with maracas, fuzz bass, and analog electronics in a multitude of rhythms. Electronic whine and bass gurgle contrast one another in a rude dance of wills, and the trope of a saxophone improvisation just serves as a reminder of how impossible it is to breathe life into the proceedings.
Halfway into the title track, which opens the second side, Young’s ramblings are vaguely reminiscent of 39 Clocks’ Juergen Gleue: bleak, arrhythmic, and backed by feedback and plodding, diffuse bass guitar. The set closes with “Don’t Get Caught,” the closest thing to liveliness this disc has, with gooey whir set against Olson’s reedy peals, the whole thing becoming gradually more lysergic over the course of its four minutes. It’s hard to imagine Stare Case winning over the hearts and minds of the indie set the way that Wolf Eyes did, however briefly, some years back. This is bleak and aggravating music, sometimes even boneheaded, but that’s not to say that Stare Case don’t exhibit conviction in what they do. Whether or not one appreciates their musical vision — well, the diehards already own their copy.
01. Days Like Faces
02. First Fire
03. Lose Today
04. Bed That Eats
05. Don’t Get Caught