Aaron Dilloway & Jason Lescalleet Popeth

[Glistening Examples; 2014]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: post-eai, tape exploitation, tape loops
Others: Grisha Shakhnes, Olivia Block, Vanessa Rossetto, Keith Rowe

It doesn’t mean anything to you until you decide that it does.
– Jason Lescalleet, in an interview for Radiotelevizija Slovenija

It doesn’t mean anything to you until you decide that it does. That could easily work as a mantra to be repeated before playing any of Jason Lescalleet’s or Aaron Dilloway’s music, as a precursor to the experience and a step toward preparation. It’s an interesting premise, because there are no boundaries as to how far you can take it; you can nearly apply this concept to anything and feel content that what you are experiencing is a product of your own intrigue, your own desire to make “it” work. But in order for that to happen, you need to have an entry point that can send you somewhere fascinating. On Popeth, the second collaborative full-length from Lescalleet and Dilloway, that entry point is a deep-cut and disintegrating tunnel of sound, a fractured rumble that marks negotiated conversations between respective artistic methods of instrumentation.

IT doesn’t mean anything to you until you decide that it does.

Lescalleet chooses his instruments carefully — analogue tape, VHS cassettes, 1980s samplers, vintage reel-to-reel tape recorders — and when he performs live, he incorporates physical space into that list; that is, he also plays the room. Wherever he might be performing, the floor, ceiling, and wall space are all susceptible to becoming a part of his set as he finds his way around the acoustics. It’s encouraging to know that even the most subtle effects are considered during a show, and that such meticulous care can also be found in his recorded output, whether it’s in the playback speed of a field recording or the frequency of a sine tone. Popeth encompasses a deep and embracing sonic space, and the resulting album bears no exception to the artist’s attention to detail.

Lescalleet surely feels the same way about his collaborators. Finding the right people to work with is just as important as finding the most suitable instruments and the best way to optimize a physical space. In this respect, it’s not only the music that’s significant here; “it” also includes the collaboration itself. Is this something you can trust? Is this something you can buy into? Dilloway is confident enough to label his releases with notes such as “Tapes, Jug, Whistles, Wheels, Horns, Junk. Recorded 2009-2014” and let them stand on their own, trusting his audience enough to go along with him. And after 20 years of creating some of the most furious and inventive noise while running Hanson Records, it’s not hard to see why.

Popeth is a collaborative effort in every sense. Handled between different cities and over several months, it’s an amalgamation of tastes and preferences that are easy enough to distinguish as each track takes its course. It’s more difficult, however, to say who has more sway over the album’s resonance, as it hums, simmers, and snaps between stretched vocal samples; there’s no chance that the broader, sweeping drones and surface crackle belong to a more patient or a more contentious artist, for instance. Take the second track, “Western Nest,” where the electronic pulses and high frequencies dominate: they are calculated in their rhythm, which adds a percussive element to the piece and exemplifies a great deal of patience in what may well be a meditation on sleep, or at least the act of falling into it.

It doesn’t mean ANYTHING to you until you decide that it does.

On Grapes and Snakes (2012), Dilloway and Lescalleet’s first collaborative full-length, the contrasts in approach were more apparent than settling on a compromise. It was like they were testing the waters to see in which direction their work would take them before embarking on the most extreme reaction to their counterpart. In an assumed tribute to his collaborator, Dilloway then dropped a limited run of cassettes called Songs About Jason, which were sold at a joint live show in 2013. Whatever fire was kindled on that initial release, it spurred a partnership that began to steady itself on yet another follow-up cassette and on Dilloway’s contribution to Lescalleet’s Trophy Tape videos.

Popeth, then, is a culmination of sorts; the easing of artistic tension, the mirror opposite of nothingness. But whereas Nothing may have been (and still remains) essential to both artists’ work, the returning titular theme running through these collaborations is the Nest (“Burning Nest,” “Building A Nest,” “Western Nest”) — a naturally constructed space that’s both the starting point for life and a place of shelter. If nothing else, the process of building, collecting materials, and of raising a living, breathing entity is an integral component within the album at hand.

It doesn’t mean anything to you until YOU decide that it does.

Perhaps it’s unfair to use an extraneous, cherry-picked quote from only one of two collaborating artists as a basis for review, but the swelling emptiness of the album and the almost villainous tone of the samples made it too tempting to reach for an outside source. The quote came from a brief moment in time that was captured and broadcast on YouTube. Here, it’s been deployed as a tool for digging deeper into the exquisite murk that these sounds assume — there is a fine line between re-contextualization and misappropriation.

For this writer, at least, the feeling those sounds trigger is one of remorse. Popeth is set on a heavy and obstructed pathway, where repetition represents dwelling on personal mistakes as well as external factors that have had a negative influence. Each loop is a manipulated and distorted compression that attempts to shed new light, to give new meaning, or to recreate scenarios that have gone badly — things that keep us awake at night. On the final track “Ewich I Gysgu, Popeth,” everything except the voice seems to transform, to melt away at the suggestion of sleep or rest. If the past could be altered, even slightly, these changes might result in more assuring outcomes. Popeth reflects the very parts we might change and the ways that we might change them, for even the most subtle alteration could have a positive impact on the present. This is surely worth dwelling on, even if it could only occur in our dreams.

Links: Aaron Dilloway & Jason Lescalleet - Glistening Examples

Eureka!

Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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