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Dennis Young – Reel To Real

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Dennis Young – Reel To RealCollected from two years’ worth of home two-track tape recordings made between 1982-1983 by Liquid Liquid‘s percussionist, Reel To Real gathers together Dennis Young‘s sketches of sometimes engagingly naïve acoustic songs alongside frenetic percussion workouts and occasional synth frenzies which prefigure the arrival of drum and bass in their clattery pace.

The demo-like quality of most of the material makes for an occasionally intimate and sometimes plain giddy feel to Reel to Real, and Young certainly gets to let some of his more avant-garde musical ideas rip here. This is especially evident on often non-linear tracks such as the bowed strings and analogue squitters of “Sprayed”, the skronky snippets of “Tape Interface For Guitar” and in the tape collage “Radio Transmissions 1”, while “Overdub Dub” layers Young’s echoed voice and percussion over a reggae tune. In fact, he’s very much an exponent of using delay on his vocals whenever possible, frequently to dissociative effect, words and meaning becoming entirely lost in a slur of reverberation and feedback which can nevertheless bring a lo-fi Silver Apples to mind when he melds percussion and electronics together.

When Young sings on “Signals In Time”, “Little Girl” or “Aliens”, it’s with a rambling conversational tone which somehow brings the tortured anti-poetry of a Jad Fair or Daniel Johnston to mind, but with his own particular style of delivery. While almost entirely unpolished, there’s a certain charm to the lack of smooth production on much of the material, and the detuned ditties have an honest, ludic rawness about them.

All of which contrasts nicely with the electronic explorations of equally off-kilter excursions like the woozily ambient Conrad Schnitzler-esque “Forbidden Planet” and the accomplished freaked-out percussive electronica of “Contortions”. These are among the tracks which feels like they will be returned to most often, sharing many of the same lo-fi qualities as some of Felix Kubin‘s recently-unearthed archives of his early cassette recordings from a similar era. The unsurprisingly-named “Drum Solo” and “More Is Less” allow Young to really show off though, as he rolls around the kit — as well as a few strategically-thumped sheets of metal — with aplomb, to bleepy synth accompaniment in the latter instance.

Bitty and often primitive, Reel to Real also offers an intriguing glimpse of how musicians used to sketch out ideas, or simply play around in an era when the only available recording devices had their own unique character. This lack of modern digital cleanliness gives the collection a certain flair, and while it’s unlikely to stay on repeat play, it contains plenty to mull over and enjoy on its own terms.

-Linus Tossio-

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