Opal Tapes showcase: Basic House, Wanda Group
Mash House; Edinburgh, UK

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE HOW MUCH MY DOG WHOSE NAME IS ZEUS WOULD HAVE LOVED THE COMPLEX TIMBRAL ETHER THAT LINGERED ON THE WALLS OF THE MASH HOUSE LIKE SLUG OOZE AFTER OPAL TAPES DECIMATED THE FLOOR. THE ONLY THING I REGRET AFTER THE SHOW WAS THAT I WASN’T BORN WITH MORE COMPLEX EAR STRUCTURES THAT COULD UNTANGLE THE UNDERLYING BEAUTY IN THE NOISE, ORCHESTRATED BY WANDA GROUP AND BASIC HOUSE. MY HANDS QUIVERED WITH NEUROTIC ENERGY. THE FLOOR SHOOK. SNAKES AND PHANTOM LIMBS SWAY WITHIN THE CEILING. I USED MY SMARTPHONE ANTENNAE DEVICE TO INATTENTIVELY NAVIGATE EDINBURGH’S LABYRINTH TO GET TO THE VENUE WHERE I WAS TOLD BASIC HOUSE, THE FOUNDER AND CHIEF OPERATOR OF OPAL TAPES, WOULD BE PLAYING WITH WANDA GROUP, AN ARTISAN OF URBAN SOUNDSCAPES AND FELLOW CAPS-LOCK ENTHUSIAST. I FELL FROM CONCRETE SLAB-ON-SLAB DOWN WEATHERED STEPS INTO THE UNDERGROUND, LITERALLY BENEATH SOME STREETS, FLOATING ABOVE OTHERS – LESSER STREETS, NEGLECTED ALL BUT FOR THUNDERING MIDNIGHT HUMAN HOOVES AND THE CLATTER OF BOTTLE ON BRICK.

CITY SOUNDS ARE OBSCENE, VULGAR, AND UNNATURAL. THE OPPOSITE OF MELODY, THE GRIM HUM OF A “CITY” HAS INFLUENCED MUSIC OF “INDUSTRIAL” TENDENCIES FOR DECADES – FROM KRAFTWERK, TO THROBBING GRISTLE, TO LOU REED AND JUDAS PRIEST. TODAY, THERE IS VATICAN SHADOW, GERMAN ARMY, AND CLOAKROOM. THE ONGOING MUSICAL TRAGEDY THAT IS LIFE PLAYS OUT TO A SOUNDTRACK OF BURNT TIRE RUBBER AND CONCRETE GRUNTING UNDER SEISMIC PRESSURE. THE UNNATURALNESS OF PAPER SCRAPING, LAWNS MOWING, VOICES CHATTERING, SEAGULLS DIVING, ALL IS PRESENTED BY WANDA GROUP AS A VISCERAL OBJECT THAT CAN BE FELT WITH EAR-FINGERS, TRACED, AND RECONCILED WITH. SOME OF US FEEL CLOSER TO THE CONCRETE THAN TO THE DIRT.

I WAS CURIOS AS TO HOW LOU JOHNSON A.K.A WANDA GROUP WOULD ADAPT HIS ORIGINAL APPROACH TO MUSIQUE CONCRÈTE TO A LIVE SETTING. IN INTERVIEWS, HIS MASH HOUSE IS ACCUSTOMED TO DJS THAT HOST NIGHTS CALLED “SOUL CITY.” WE STOOD AT A DISTANCE. WANDA GROUP CREATED A SONIC BARRIER BETWEEN HIMSELF AND THE AUDIENCE AND THE PHYSICALITY OF THE BASS MADE MY DRINK TREMBLE AND I THOUGHT ABOUT ALL OF THE TRAIN STATIONS AND FACTORY GUTS THAT WERE CRAMMED INTO THE RECORDED TRACKS LAYERED LIKE FISTFULS OF CLAY AND “WEIRD SPACE.” OUT OF THE NOISE WALL CAME CLEANSING AND CLARITY. I WENT OUT INTO THE NIGHT AND MY EARS WERE RENEWED AND EXCITED AND MY EYES WERE WATERY AND THE SOUND HAD NOT BEEN HARSH BUT SOOTHINGLY LOUD.

SOME PEOPLE CALL OPAL TAPES “OUTSIDER HOUSE.” AFTER BEING OUTSIDE, I FELT “WOMB HOUSE,” OR “CHRYSALIS HOUSE” WERE MORE APT. BOTH OF THOSE NAMES ARE STUPID. I WENT BACK INSIDE AND BASIC HOUSE, WHICH IS A MUCH BETTER NAME AND IS NOT BASIC IN ANY WAY, WAS A SINGLE MAN AND HIS CONTROLLER AND A VOCODER THAT DANGLED FROM HIS LIPS AND GAVE HIM THE ALLURE OF A HUMAN MIDI CONTROLLER. CHANTING HEAVILY PROCESSED VOCALS, BASIC HOUSE PLAYED THE MOST RHYTHMIC SET, BRINGING TO THE FOREFRONT THE PULSING KICK THAT WANDA GROUP LEFT SPECTERS OF IN HIS STRUCTURALLY SIMPLISTIC ASSAULT. BASIC HOUSE GAVE THE BEAT MORE TIME TO BUILD. PEOPLE EVEN DANCED. THEY DANCED A LITTLE, AND WOULD STOP WHEN THE BEAT DISAPPEARED AND THE GRINDING OF FIELD RECORDING VERSUS OSCILLATOR DOMINATED. PULLED TAUT THE CROWD’S EARS. WE WERE ALL STRUNG UP BY OUR ANKLES BY THE END OF IT. LEATHER FLAILS OF FEEDBACK MASHED THROUGH THE HOUSE WALLS WITH ACIDIC ENERGY. EVIL URGES CRUSHED THE MILES OF CASSETTE FERRITE USED TO CRAFT BASIC HOUSE’S ICY TECHNO.

BOTH SETS WERE EXPLOSIVE AND CAPTIVATING, LIKE WATCHING A MASSIVE BEAST HAUL A SHIPPING CONTAINER ACROSS THE DESERT, THE SOLITARY PRODUCERS DEMONSTRATING THE FEROCITY AND SINGULAR VISION OF OPAL TAPES, WHILE CATERING TO DIFFERENT AUDIENCES. THOSE WHO CAME TO DANCE TO BASIC HOUSE WERE ESPECIALLY RECEPTIVE TO WANDA GROUP’S LEAD-MAUSOLEUM DRONESCAPES, WHICH STOOD OUT AS EXQUISITELY DENSE AND RELAXING.

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