POLAND CAT SUN CAT16 CD (2013)
There’s an wilful anonymity to this new recording from TER, its nondescript nomenclature and the threadbare, chilly atmospheres conjured up by her collection of vintage and modern synths and drum machines. Consisting primarily of sparse synth lines shimmering in and out of view with hints of rhythm that occasionally approach the exotic – as in the quasi-tribal step that slowly powers through the third of six ‘untitled’ tracks – it’s an approach that requires an equally sensitive listener, to take in how crisp, distinct and refreshing her carefully corralled ingredients and arrangements can be. TER likens this compositional delicacy to the leaving of fingerprints (hence the title), specifically in the work of her former group, Brasil and the Gallowbrothers Band, and that of her collaborator and (current) labelmate Mirt, with ephemerality at the heart of every action.
At times this approach verges on the uneventful: the garden of shuffling undertones of the fifth track seems best suited to insomniacs. However, when the elements are assembled so as to highlight their uniqueness it’s a remarkable and quirky beauty, which TER finds in an ongoing conflict between opposing forces: ‘vintage vs. modern electronics, free, acoustic percussion vs. tight electronic beats, minimalism and cold vs. thousands of colourful drips and noises’ and suchlike. We witness traces of this early on, as the first piece fleets piece by piece into being: a slow, vibrating texture phases in and out of earshot; a restful state intruded by what seems to be an increasingly agitated thumb piano loop; evidence of some culpability perhaps. Such agitation is uncommon however, and it’s hard to imagine a more harmonious gathering of the disparate than in a tracklist that arcs so smoothly towards a finally tranquil and sunlit dawn, chafing not nerves nor getting the blood up.
Rite Of Passage
POLAND CAT SUN CAT15 CD (2013)
A similar proposition to TER’s is collaborator (Tomasz) Mirt’s tenth album, Rite of Passage. The title he lifted from an episode of Miami Vice, and he describes the record as ‘a kind of modern soundtrack for non-existent trash movie’, which might set a few first-world eyes rolling I suppose; so prevalent is the ‘soundtrack to a film never made’ cliché. Not without a hint of frustration is it then to report that the music is genuinely evocative of the cinematic image, from the nonchalant, scene-setting synth arpeggio that first narrates us into a misty dawn, descending gracefully like flying cars towards a Blade Runner rooftop; the spare, slightly tribal rhythms so suggestive of such jungle-based antics as witnessed in Zombie Flesh Eaters, Cannibal Holocaust and the like; and the sparing, heavily phased synthesizer melodies that convey an anaesthetic tone of urban alienation.
While the odd snippet of movie dialogue that does crops up is strikingly incongruous, the chief triumph to my ears is the lack of garishness or bombast one might expect in such a project, and Mirt has really put the time into paring things down to the breadline, fashioning from his faint lines, dim pulses and cool pads a vaguely haunting, semi-conscious state of perception. So ponderous and emotionally distant are these elements from one another that it’s hard to grasp how such a slight operation could accommodate more than one operator. Indeed, so uncannily similar is his sound to TER’s, that I’m not convinced that they aren’t one and the same. Both of the above CDs are packaged in sturdy, large format gatefold sleeves.