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Set Fire To Flames – Telegraphs In Negative/Mouths Trapped In Static

Label: 130701(Europe)/Alien8(North America) Format: 2CD

Telegraphs In Negative/Mouths Trapped In Static - sleeve detailSome bands and their sound are inextricably linked to their chosen recording environments. Can and Faust immediately come to mind with place and process being inextricably linked. So it is with this thirteen-piece Canadian collective. Their last CD Sings Reign Rebuilder derived much of its atmosphere from the location in Montreal where they recorded it . They called the place “an old falling down monstrosity” and “something that couldn’t be erased from the tape” and undeniably, “the recordings were as much about the house as they were about the sounds made inside it”. Now they have produced something similar.

This time the band shifted their collective selves to a place which would become an essential part of what they played. Isolation and singular focus are key words. Holed up on an abandoned farm in rural Ontario they recorded in an “huge cathedral-like barn” producing an album that is as fascinating to listen to as the record of the process is to read. It isn’t often that promo leaflets are worth reading or offer any insights into the music they crow about. This one does.

But what about the music? Some of it is the result of group improvisation while other parts are composed. The whole lot was gathered from 12 hours of recording and has been “hacked apart” and reconstructed by the band. Whatever the process, it is, thankfully, difficult to categorise, blending as it does a wide range of instruments, from bass clarinet to glockenspiel as well as those assorted location noises. The place creaks, strains and filters itself into the overall sound. It is eerie and comforting, grainy and clear as sunlight through trees. A compelling combination.

On CD 1, guitars chime together and various combinations of violin, cello and keyboard drone, scramble and disperse in the air like throngs of tiny wings. Yes, it is pretty hard to describe but wonderful to listen to. For example on “Tehran In Seizure/Telegraphs In Negative” something like rotating helicopter blades hang over the opening before evolving into a shimmering wave of insect wings or calls. The music just seems to spread out effortlessly, tracks merging into each other. There are some harsher moments, like some of “Fukt Perkusiv/Something About Bad Drugs, Schizophrenics And Grain Silos-” on CD 2 But “Something About Eva Mattes In The Halo Of Exploding Street Lamps” is a gently repetitive marimba feature.

This is mostly music that uses space, sprawls and sometimes lulls you into disconnected dreamscapes. It ought to be listened to in one sitting in order to experience the way the music grows and mutates. The sense of place may be specific but there is a real timelessness about it, as though listening suspends time. What better effect could music have ?

-Paul Donnelly-

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