Jason Lescalleet, veteran of experimental sounds, has been quite prolific within the past year or so, unleashing the justly celebrated double album opus Songs About Nothing, two mysterious and intrepid releases for Chondritic Sound, a split 7-inch with frequent collaborator Graham Lambkin, and a collaborative LP with former Wolf Eyes member and 8-track master Aaron Dilloway. This surge in recorded activity has led to another personal venture of a different sort, with Lescalleet making the decision to expand the focus of his self-release imprint Glistening Examples into a full-fledged label releasing projects not just intrinsically related to Lescalleet’s own endeavors. And for a release that will mark the start of a distinct turning point in GE’s identity, the vinyl debut of Israeli sound artist Grisha Shakhnes stands as a perfect statement of intent for this venture into the world of curation, with this reflective and probing long-player of ambient tape and re-purposed found sounds summoning Lescalleet’s own recorded collaborations with Lambkin as well as other like-minded icons of the abstract-compositional field like Olivia Block, Vanessa Rossetto, and Francisco Lopez.
“A Man Asleep” opens the vinyl with a digitized crackle, one that bears a strikingly close resemblance the resonance of a scratched LP, yet with the speed and timbre reverberating in a distinctly non-analog demeanor. This compelling little paradox between the mediums — utilized by both the artist and the listener in their shared experience — establishes an overarching theme of drifting ambiguity and mysterious familiarity that anchors these sounds into a distinguished tapestry. Clanking metal and glass are soon juxtaposed against what one’s ear may detect to be a clothes dryer or another piece of unknown material tumbling within a piece of machinery. All of these sound sources feel ostensibly slowed to a warped crawl, rendering the mundane tones with stark peculiarity that nevertheless begins to settle into a naturalistic rhythm of its own devising. The question of how radically these sounds are being manipulated and distorted by Shakhnes’ own hand presents a compelling sense of mystery to the brunt of “A Man Asleep,” but the subtlety and grace with which Shakhnes guides his sources is unquestionably powerful.
The soothing high of tape hiss and further recordings of mechanized clutter and banal environmental calamity (i.e., foot and vehicle traffic) seamlessly ride into an untitled piece that acts as a distinct continuation of the sounds thus far collaged. Along this path, the digital crackle from the start is phased back into the soundscape, contrasting starkly with the tape sources, an artificial percolation that renders this fever dream of industrial society all the more off-putting and captivating. By the end of the side, Shakhnes has worked in an eerie tapestry of children playing on playground equipment, the squeaks and squalor of which recall The New Blockaders’ earliest dalliances with pure noise; this comes to an apex as the needle hits a locked groove, looping the clatter into a symphony absolutely alien and somewhat unsettling.
The second side’s opener, cryptically entitled “A Man Aflame,” begins with an appropriately menacing wash of rubble pulsating under an amplified electronic hum (most likely an ungrounded amplifier) that gestates threateningly in the foreground. While the build between the two suggests a tension spilling into a climax, the expected crescendo is sidestepped as a high-pitched electronic fizzle and light distortion push forcefully over the growling mechanics. The dynamics here are crafted exquisitely, and soon enough an intimidating rumble echoes over the playground loops that were introduced prior to the closing of the first side. The patchwork of noise reaches perhaps its most distinct moment of aggression as overdriven signals and extraneous static soon envelop all into a relieving fade. Thus, with album closer “Leaving Traces In A Living Light,” one feels an unambiguous point of transition into abject serenity, with the subterranean muffle and consoling drones of distant songs deep in the background allowing for a powerful feeling of relief from “Aflame’s” agitated tension.
If Lambkin and Lescalleet’s The Breadwinner was a surreal exploration of domestic routine, Leave/Trace recalls potentially remembered, potentially imagined explorations of its listeners’ terrestrial city and environment, a delirious journey that never feels threatening, but bares the peculiar traces of lost or inebriated consciousness. And like Francisco Lopez’s recordings of office buildings and their subterranean mechanics, the anti-musical sound sources here generate their own sense of rhythmic and harmonic urgency, the tumbling and low rumbled hums of machinery and man allowing a distinctly accessible musicality that would superficially be heard as auditory debris. Overall, Shakhnes’ work here aptly parallels with some of Lescalleet’s own sonic concerns, a meticulous and patient generation of careful tape music that works to both console and perturb.