Howard Stelzer
Bond Inlets
Intransitive CD

Available through the Helen Scarsdale Agency: $12.00

     
Few artists would actually be willing to expound their love of this recordable magnetic medium. Everything about the cassette seemed more about convenience than art: fidelity was far from great, conventional packaging limited the visual impact of the medium, and brand to brand of blank tape could vary greatly in quality and reliability. Stelzer is one artist who takes these technical limitations of the format and uses them as a sonic palette to paint soundscapes that can be somber, soft and reflective, or terrifyingly oppressive torrents of violence.
     Separated into two long tracks, much like the alternating sides of a C60 cassette, both pieces open with a slow build from tape hiss. The first track is all hiss and vibration from the tape heads moving, a subtle cluster of sounds that somehow begin to form a musical interlude, or perhaps it is just an artifact of my mind creating something from the chaos until everything is blown apart by a whiteout layer of pure, crunchy noise. The noise builds in both depth and sharpness as field recording elements and a deep hum rears its head and tries to add melody to the proceedings, but can't quite get its act straight. Even those cheap condenser mics built into so many cassette recordings are used to full effect, in this case for low end explosions to supplement the audio of mechanical failures. Then, after the barrage of controlled blasts and demolitions, a more expansive field of ambience begins to unfold, bleeps and tones that begin to roll upon themselves into noisier territory once again. Somehow this mass becomes musical by the end and sounds like a voracious cassette player devouring an entire music catalog.
     The tape hiss from hell that opens the second part acts as the yin to the buried, filtered rumble of rotating tape heads yang, creating a deep sinister rumbling from caverns of analog technology long forgotten. Field recording elements are a bit more pronounced on this second track: random found sounds, someone whistling, etc. The harsh elements are just as harsh, and at times the tape elements are so processed that they resemble black metal guitar riffs, which makes perverse sense given that scene's love of "kvlt" lo-fi production. The disc comes to a close the only way it conceivably could: with a slow trail off to tape hiss and the sound of tape deck being turned off.
     Stelzer's return to the material that formed his first release is a fascinating document that is so narrowly focused on one specific theme, and yet sounds neither monotone nor forced. In some ways I was reminded of Akifumi Nakajima/Aube's more subtle noise compositions, but with a more diverse amount of sounds making up the proceedings than his work. Bond Inlets is a fascinating disc that has both strong compositional elements as well as a lot of chance, chaotic noise explosions that work extremely well together." -- Creaig Dunton