Afterlife and Dry Valleys split; and Black Velvet Stereo – ‘Metal Rain Machine’ [Review]

Having long-since articulated the sound and vision for his Sacred Phrases label, Adam returns to the performative space of Dry Valleys.  The multi-part “Energetic Shifts 1-3” displays the austerity, temperance, and base appeal which his many minimal cassette packages offer.  A cameral arrangement of synthesizer in rose-colored lights, the first phase gleams and slightly glares in a precious melody and bare harmony, constructing a deeper synth world than most competitors can seem to conjure, and after a heavy breath, liquidating into something fainter though equally static, permanent, and desiring for a listener’s feeling patronage.  This trilogy can be contrasted to the four-handed programming on “Lattices of Light” by Afterlife (Franklin Teagle of Anathema Tapes and Ryan McGill of Bones of Seabirds): intense sequencing of point/counterpoint over a shimmering fabric of aquamarines, fades to a cavernous flow snaked by electric serpents, and sputtering circuits.  Exhibiting the height of narrative for this label, the boat ride is linear and full of delights, even if we’re no wiser for the wear.

Another exemplar in impressionism, framing, and anonymity, the sole release by Black Velvet Stereo called ‘Metal Rain Machine’ runs the scope of Sacred Phrases and spills over even, into the metabolic terrain of ‘Drive’-based nostalgia from Cliff Martinez and Symmetry.   “Fire Forest”, “Red Stone”, “Cold Mountains” summarize well the swift overviews of side one, a twilight tear through burning California hills artificially-darkened by smoke.  Organic synthesized cloth-ing and conspicuously synthesizer-qua-synthesizer form a nice contrast of droning vibes and environment, and authoritative leads which zag like neon pin-stripping for its own sake.  The reverse features a separate mise-en-scene, more optimistic and meteorological, with high-frequency tones in light spectrums, like the post-draught recovery of the cliff-side chaparral: tweeting, budding and buzzing, the tones stay close to the soggy ground, releasing air effervescently and clipping tendrils of vapor in their infancy.  Admittedly, the tone shifts midway, with “The Wind”, a sort of reprise of side A’s nihil and race, now rendered in cool streaks and metallic curbs with unending sight-lines.

Sacred Phrases cassette

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