Fascinating and beautiful record of assembled bric-a-brac by Fossil Aerosol Mining Project on their understated but carefully crafted LP The Day 1982 Contaminated 1971 (THE HELEN SCARSDALE AGENCY HMC 033). Fossil Aerosol Mining Project are dedicated to sifting through the remains of abandoned 20th-century effluvia, treating it like so much archaeology; the primary source for their digs is old drive-in movie theatres and forgotten warehouses, where they seek out lost reels of 35mm film and magnetic tapes. As such, they are not unlike Crawling With Tarts, Philip Jeck, and more recently Lost Trail, all of whom have exhibited an interest in milking the voices of the past from unpromising and potentially damaged sources. Fossil Aerosol Mining Project clearly relish all the havoc wrought by age on these materials; physical disintegration, damp, tape-rot, poor splices, scratches, dropouts and accumulated dirt, dust and grit on the surface of the film or tape are meat and drink to them, and indeed much of the substantial fabric of their work depends on the exploitation of these time-accumulated glitches.
Fossil Aerosol Mining Project are intent on keeping a low profile, a tradition which is common with certain industrial-ish musicians, and no individual names have surfaced after all of five minutes of research. They’ve been doing it since 1986, and evidence of early releases can be found (on cassette, natch!). But their real purple patch seems to have begun about ten years ago, with numerous CDRs and download releases emerging on the Afterdays Media imprint. There’s also a collaborative release with Zoviet France from 2014, and without being deeply familiar with the Zoviet’s back catalogue, it’s still possible for me to discern they share common ground with the Fossils; a mutual interest perhaps in benign and mysterious drone sounds that stir the human mind in unpredictable ways. The point here is that Fossil Aerosol Mining Project have had time to evolve and grow a very plausible aesthetic, one that’s expressed not just in sound recordings but also in sound installations, and their own movies.
I’m especially taken with the title of this album, which explicitly proposes the idea of the future somehow “contaminating” the past. It may suggest on one level that Fossil Aerosol Mining Project are intent on reworking and reprocessing their obsolete materials using latter-day equipment; but I would prefer to think that they are more interested in revealing something that is otherwise hidden, peeling apart the layers of history on the fragile media they hold in their hands. Even the phenomenon of print-through, which sometimes happens when you store film and tapes together for too long, may contribute to this concept and have some bearing on their aesthetic.
Lest any of the above makes this release seem overly conceptual or excessively process-heavy, let’s reiterate that it’s a gorgeous noise they make here. The artists here have no interest in ironically reworking the forgotten past or sending up the culture of 40 years ago, nor in the sterility of studio-based filtering, looping, and layering. Neither do they settle for a sentimental nostalgia, by peering at life through the patina of aged celluloid. Quite simply, they make sounds that are beautiful to listen to; fragile dreams or memories, somehow printed onto a replayable medium. From 15th October 2015.