AUSTRALIA A GUIDE TO SAINTS SNT018 CASSETTE (2016)
This is a four song cassette and download release from Lawrence English’s Room40 tape offshoot A Guide To Saints (since 2012), although I actually have a cd-r promo here on the desk in front of me. As it’s a release designed for the cassette format, I’ll stick to the Side A/B protocols when discussing each piece of music. Those with an interest in American automotive history will be disappointed to learn that this release is not a tribute to an American muscle car from the 1960s, but Craig’s own Australian-made Coronet Phase 2 guitar amplifier.
The first piece (track A1 on the cassette), “Green Shroud”, has a core of a sleepy keyboard figure which repeats over which Craig layers high pitched sine waves, synthesiser, birdsong, some other pre-recorded material sourced from who knows where and heavily treated – with an analogue delay of some kind I think – somewhat out of control vocals. It might be my imagination, but there’s room noise on this track as well which suggests that something acoustic was recorded with a live mic that was neither edited nor gated later on. All of this gives one the feeling of wandering around a phantom new age festival with nothing better to do than soak up the mix of sound systems, stalls and sounds of nature on a lovely summer’s day. “Drowned World” (track A2) is a chord held down on a keyboard with clarinet extrapolations and more birdsong overlaid. Apparently, Craig dangled microphones out of the window of his Brisbane studio to capture his environmental recordings and the sound of an aeroplane passing overhead produces a pleasant effect here.
“Arc The Solar Causeways”, (B1), begins on unaccompanied electric piano. Delicate. Distant processed vocals like eddies in a stream, flowing around bulrushes. I like the way the processing becomes more and more evident; slowly taking over everything, not just the vocals. There’s a period where the music seems to fight it; the repeated vocal sounds skirt around dissonance briefly, before the entire mix becomes unstable and collapses into itself. The final piece, “Divided By Zero” (B2), is initially a conflation of what could be electronic feedback and vocals. This is the most like a “song” of all the four pieces. Although what the “song” is about exactly is hard to discern. The feedback is processed but this time the dissonance is more pronounced – it sounds like a Roland tape echo being abused here. A keyboard part cycles around the latter part of this composition, with the long-suffering tape echo being manipulated to within an inch of its life. Great bit of studio technique – I’m all for that.