As with numerous artists operating in the more studious and intensely personal reaches of the avant-garde landscape, Jason Lescalleet has been crafting intricate and obtuse yet stunningly compelling sound art for well over a decade. But in recent years, his profile has risen considerably, thanks in part to his superb collaborative albums with ex-Shadow Ring member Graham Lambkin as well as a beautifully realized live prescience both solo and in collaboration (his set with hyper-minimal duo nmperign at 2010’s Neon Marshmallow Fest was especially noteworthy). As such, Lescalleet’s self-curated odds-and-ends collection, This Is What I Do - Volume One, arrives at an apt juncture in his career’s reverence, and with most works on this collection spanning Lescalleet’s concerns from the early-2000s, it presents a studious exploration of the beginnings of his current artistic nuances and concerns that he’s developed across the past decade.
Running his mastery of tape-loop and found-sound manipulation through a digital configuration focused on sparsity, What I Do positions itself from the beginning as an experience rewarded by an unflinching and composed attentiveness. A stark measure of silence introduces the disc before the buoyant drones of “Un Peu De Neige Sans Raison” steadily rise. This particular piece (and having been recorded in 1998, the earliest) is more observably pronounced than the pieces that follow, with “Un Peu” gliding smoothly over a consistent and unbreaking resonance. An obvious point of reference hinted within this piece is the sparse electronic ebb of Nurse With Wound’s drone masterpiece Soliloquy For Lilith, though here we find Lescalleet applying a more noticeably warm and textured bed of quasi-melodicism that also feels perhaps even more muffled and feverish than Stapleton’s classic.
By the time “Needles” begins, any intentions within the audience of taking a casual listen to What I Do become dubious. The track’s title hints at an apt and subtle wit with this piece’s “pins-and-needles” tonalities taking shape as they perpetual rise and decay across all manner of static-infused textures, the crackling and breaking clusters of sound presenting illusory change over its length. Continuing within this range of frequency and perhaps with a greater meticulousness is “Untitled,” which opens on a string of piercing tones that eventually fall forcefully into a downcast muffle of warm yet ominous sonics, a theme that seems to hint at what was accomplished on “Un Peu,” but built from a less comforting tapestry of ambiguous and discordant drones. And while the following “Tape Deck Model RD-504” implies a focus on Lescalleet’s more recent artistic concerns with its title (Lescalleet having gained much acclaim for his use of tape), the intonations utilized from said source sounds are manipulated into a adornment of digital squeals keeping in step with the cryptic yet compelling compositional structures that have thus far defined the collection. “Tape Deck’s” eventual build into an arresting percussive loop, something along the lines of vinyl skipping in time with the squeaking of a metal hinge, invites in a series of concurrent loops and found sounds, all of which Lescalleet masterfully sets against one another with precision.
“The Destructive Effects Of Group Dynamics” carries onward Lescalleet’s unorthodox recontextualization of subtle resonances. Here, Lescalleet melds a congruous build of arresting stillness, collaging pieces of found sound that may or may not amount to manipulated recordings of rain showers and room tone, all gorgeously placed against one another; of all the works that begin the line that leads to a place like his acclaimed Breadwinner LP with Lambkin, this may offer the first clues. The following “Put ‘Em On The Glass” (an absurd nod to Sir Mix-A-Lot?) unleashes the records most cacophonous crunch of harsh timbres during its jilting introduction, yet this confrontational opening eventually dissipates into smooth chiming that reverberates cryptically against a prominent layer of open space.
Closing the disc, “A Broken Mirror” begins with suitably clipped recordings of unbroken tones, the stuttering bubbling of intentional distortion of these otherwise languid tones almost playfully pushing forth against an undying din that steadies easily over a 10-minute period. Sharing with “Un Peu” a distinct focus on undisturbed droning, the book-ending of these two tracks, by nature also the most accessible, is an exquisite touch, offering further proof that Lescalleet can take equal comfort in adroit serenity and refined demolition.
As this collection is presented chronologically, it offers an obvious, albeit inspired, path in which to trace Lescalleet’s artistry, with the build of the starkly minimal early work eventually percolating into something comparatively more dense. This Is What I Do collects sound-based artwork that requires the most apt devotion, but said discipline continually and unflailingly rewards as one gives in to its beautifully constructed dissonance.