Richmond Tape Club Vol. 4: Anduin (C20, Richmond Tape Club)

dark ambient, darkwave, Drone, Music, Review

anduin

Anduin is the project of Jonathan Lee, and on this tape it’s sort of a revolving door of artists that stop by to help him out. His sound is primarily characterized by droning rhythms; Anduin is not quite noisy, but it can also feature tones considered unsettling. Whatever the label for his project’s music may be, it’s clearly built on ethereal synths and a focus on soaring textures rather than noise extremes.

Opener “Ginter Park” is a short track with a dark synth pulse; it’s only a minute in length, so the sound quickly disperses into the next track. Unfortunately, I wanted to hear a little more of this, because the transition is abrupt – it’s not the best lead-in to “Sleeper” despite being a hypnotic track. The lengthier “Sleeper” is a beautiful droning melody, with a wavering, echoing tone mixed with quiet percussive elements. It’s joined in the middle of the track by a smooth saxophone improvisation, and I can’t imagine anyone hearing this piece and walking away unhappy. The final track for side A, “Fever Dream,” captures its title rather well – it’s a dark, slow-burning drone, the kind of unsettling sound I mentioned in the introduction to this review.

Side B starts out with “Strangers,” a steamy track with only a couple of note changes from the synth. That’s more of a background texture, as well as the percussion chimes, that is meant to accompany the sax solos and the heavy string chords; it’s a track reminiscent of what you might hear during an 80s movie about the grittiness of the city. “First Life” ends the tape with a dark flow of sounds – the rustle of leaves or brush, the melancholy chords of a wavering guitar. Then it shifts into a percussion-heavy pulse.

Anduin weaves fantastic instrumentation into this tape; his use of sax, strings, and found sounds add a lot to the basic drones, leaving the listener with excellent floating pieces to get lost in. It’s a fitting end to the first set of the Richmond Tape Club: sometimes melancholy, never dull.

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Richmond Tape Club Vol. 3: Elian (C20, Richmond Tape Club)

Drone, Music, Noise, Review

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Elian is the drone project of Michael Duane Ferrell. On Richmond Tape Club Vol. 3, he contributes two ten-minute tracks of quiet electronics, often rhythmic in approach. They’re also named after two great horror actors, so that kind of tells you where Elian’s allegiances lie in terms of sonic worship.

The first side-long track is titled “Christopher Lee.” It starts out rather quiet with a distant bass hum, and then it works its way up from there, adding subtle crackles of electronics, touches of synth, and a few dissonant notes to the collection. Rather than climax, however, the track comes down in the middle; it adds tinny textures that loop, as well as resonant notes that add to the din of the original sustained chord. There’s another small build of sorts, where these textures grow and get louder, adding density to “Christopher Lee” before it cuts out.

“Peter Cushing” begins with a sustained drone and chords; there’s a high-pitched note held out in the background that comes forward as the other pieces fall away. It’s a tense opening – there’s a stillness to it that gives the expectation the track will open up at any moment. Elian continues to add high synth notes on top, progressively altering and sustaining them to coincide with a rushing bass sound underneath it all.

The result is a couple of simple drone tracks that reward the listener the longer they continue. These tracks are reminiscent of movies of the horror legends they represent, but they’re also transcendental in their approach.

Richmond Tape Club Vol. 2: Slow News Day in the Vampire World (C20, Richmond Tape Club)

dark ambient, dub, Music, Review

slow news day

Slow News Day in the Vampire World is a dub project from John and Tara Morand. On this tape for the Richmond Tape Club, they have a couple of guest appearances from friends, and the tracks are titled to signify whose track it is. There are five tracks on this C20, and each of them have the plodding bass drones you’d expect from a dub album.

The first side consists of two tracks, the first being “Stephen Funky.” It’s a repetitive song with huge bass, and there’s a buzzing element locked into that groove that works rather well as a noisy offshoot to the rather minimal textures. “Delia Dub” and “Bobby Dub” are short tracks that allow Slow News Day in the Vampire World to play with different sounds while keeping their initial beat intact, but the most apparent experiment is the final track “Animal Talk,” a mid-paced beat with echoing drum slaps and a swirling sample that sounds sourced from some vocal clip. There are more sonic changes in this song than any of the others combined thanks to the track’s vignettes. The sound continues to grow, the synths get more defined, and vocal samples echo along with eerie woodwind effects.

The result is a quiet and deliberate effect. Some of these tracks, the liner tells us, were used in an Irish horror film called Portrait of a Zombie, and they do sound like the plodding moments of a film that is slowly building to show us how zombies have taken over the world, as though we’re viewing it on top of a skyscraper and the horde stretches for miles. Some might find the slow progression of these tracks off-putting, however, and those who don’t like dub will probably not find anything here to change their minds.

Richmond Tape Club Vol. 1: Negative Gemini (C20, Richmond Tape Club)

darkwave, Music, Review, witch house

richmond 1

The RIchmond Tape Club is a set of four cassettes, although for review purposes I will be doing each tape individually. It’s easier to cover and fairer for the artist. Volume 1 of the series features Negative Gemini, the dark synth/witch house project of Lindsey French. It features four tracks of synth-based textures along with drum machines and pedal-warped vocals.

Each side gets two songs, the longest being track one, “Negative Gemini.” The project itself tends to be rather melancholy, with the synths tuned to a colder, vibrating sound rather than any sort of resonance. The most striking feature of Negative Gemini is French’s vocals; most of the time, on the aforementioned track and also  “Eulogy” and “Slit Show,” she uses pedals to give her voice a hushed, ghostly sound, even though she actually has a very pretty voice. The juxtaposition between the two highlights the “witch” part of witch house, but the emphasis on darker synth tones provides a haunting subtext to each track, even when the lyrics are difficult to understand.

On the tape’s final track, “Ghost World,” Negative Gemini branches out for more of an upbeat club mix: pounding bass and cymbal splashes mix with synths played in higher keys. French’s vocals are brighter and more vibrant; she doesn’t drape them in reverb or echo as much, and there’s an uplifting light about the song.

It shows that Negative Gemini can produce both brooding and lighthearted tracks. For the most part, Richmond Tape Club Vol. 1 is ethereal and eerily distant, but it can also be surprisingly beautiful when French decides to lighten things. It’s a great start to the series.

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