Justin Rhody and Matthew Himes – Romantic Love (C24, Lighten Up Sounds)

Two side-long drones of electronics, guitar, and violin permeate dreary atmospherics on this C24 from Lighten Up Sounds. Justin Rhody and Matthew Himes each have their own noise projects, but here they come together to create soundscapes with deliciously varied sounds, one track being allotted to noisier output while the A-side takes on a droning somnolence. The tape comes on a black cassette with a disembodied head floating on the artwork of the j-card, which is somewhat unsettling to look at.

As I noted previously, Side A has the dronier sounds, with more feedback and electronics manipulations than drones. The track starts off with some soft oscillations and then hurriedly embraces scratchy noise and sustained tones. There’s a lightness, a wavering texture to the cut that creates a nicely nuanced sound. Feedback cuts in and out with shuddering blasts, and the sparseness of this opening complements the later outbursts well. The careful play drops, then picks up with a whisper-buzz in the background along various effects in the foreground, like moaning and some cymbal crashes probably from tapes. The track picks up its ominous tone here, with a long high-pitched drone with windy wisps underneath; the tensity stems from the prolonged exposure to the single drone carrying the track forward. But there’s also some great violin screeches, with intense and heavy strikes with the bow carrying a distinct scratchy sound. We close with a little acoustic guitar melody, which feels out of place compared to the gravitas of the majority of the track. Yet the cut sticks, perhaps because of the abrasive nature of the drone or the tension of the sustained tones.

Side B holds the real appeal, however, with some great instrumental drones including electric guitars and violins. We start out with a rhythmically-changing sound – somewhat hard to tell what it is, as it’s possible it could be violin or electronics. Subtle guitar strums in the background, but there’s a nice pulse to the piece that carries throughout because of that spastic violin, which creates all sorts of throbbing beats. Rhody and Himes seem the most orchestrated on the B-side, experimenting with the other’s sound and complementing with similar sounds. New sounds make their way into the mix, squalled electronics with heavy-handed strumming. Screaming mechanics in the background while the foreground grounds the listener in musical time, a plodding rhythm. What’s most interesting is how the sounds shift – violin gives up the beat for the guitar, a fantastically minimal shift on paper that has a noticeable effect on the overall sound.

Rhody and Himes present a dual nature to this work of Romantic Love, and the collaboration/duel of the tracks weaves new threads in the drone patchwork. The tape is dynamic, but subtly so, and it rewards both the casual and studious listener.

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