Grant Evans, Brittle, The Helen Scarsdale Agency, cassette HMS034 (2015)
In all my years of listening to out-there sounds and music, I can’t recall having had anything from The Helen Scarsdale Agency. (Though I’m sure Aquarius Records may gently remind me that I indeed ordered something from them … five, ten years ago? …) This tape will be a welcome introduction for others to the label and to the artist Grant Evans who together with his wife Rachel used to run the tape label Hooker Vision, and who himself has made many noise and ambient recordings either solo or with Rachel as the duo Quiet Evenings and released these works through Hooker Vision or other labels.
Each side of the cassette consists of a single track that is as much droning ambience as it is industrial / noise fuzz and stumbling in the dark bumping into nearly every unseen source of sound. The chainsaw must be the drone sound du jour of late, it being a constant presence on first track “Pills in the Reptile House”. Field recordings initially suggest the movements of frogs in a shallow pond. While the shrill metallic squeal matures and turns out to be quite a richly jewelled and cultivated sound, the things that go bump behind the eardrum-destroying treble grinder opt for being sinister though no less complex in sound and possible meanings. Something cold and seeming rather remote and abstract is growing slowly and steadily and crowding out everything else until it dominates the soundscape completely – and even then it continues non-stop with its inexorable expansion until it reaches far beyond the heavens and deep below Sheol.
“Lineage” has the ambience of a sentient alien sea slithering up and down a beach while prehistoric flying creatures cry overhead. A silvery metallic presence spreads itself over the oily waves. Trudging noises suggestive of someone walking in grass plod all over the track while the liquid sea rolls along, as if following. This is not quite so single-minded as the previous track is and the parallel sets of sounds rarely intersect but follow their own pre-set courses. Eventually the track finds its own way into space and sets off floating among the stars to a vaguely known destination.
These are both hypnotic soundscape pieces, rich and deep in their layers of noise / drone textures and the emotions these sounds stir up. Listeners may either feel at peace with them or find the music a little chilling and uncomfortable, depending on previous music listening experience. For such long, floaty and unstructured works, the two tracks are self-contained with the music following a consistent path of development all the way from start to finish.