Prairie Fire Tapes

PF- 047 Jane Barbe – ‘Alert’ C30 $6
Jane Barbe, the ambient/drone project of Leo Brookes, first came to our attention with the submission of last year’s Jane Barbe/Akrotiri Poacher split; since then, both artists have been hard at work, developing their styles into truly unique and breath-taking vistas of sound. The latest Jane Barbe recording, “Alert,” brings us nearly 30 minutes of ethereal ambient drone that seems to unfold itself at a distance, ever so slowly, like unfurling of clouds on a cold winter’s day. Inspired by the cold beauty of Alaska, the sounds on “Alert” will seduce your ears in the most hypnotic manner possible, causing your eyelids to droop but never allowing sleep to take you over. Side A’s “Stony River/Crooked Creek” shivers with a gradual progression of loops, sounding at once both synthetic and like field recordings from the inside of some distant, snow-packed cave; Side B’s “White Pass/Glacier View” begins on a quieter note, coaxing you to come in closer, its subdued tonal palette meandering as graceful as the passage of the mass of ice referenced in the track name.  The sheer level of tasteful restraint on display here is absolutely stunning, and a rarity at that. Far and away from the lo-fi, hissing creep-out of his contribution to our discography last year, “Alert” sees Brookes exhibiting slow-motion delicacy that is at once chilling and quietly moving. Very highly recommended. w/  Download.

PF-049 Akrotiri Poacher – ‘Seminary’ C30 $6
Hot on the heels of his collaboration with Jane Barbe on last year’s split (PF025), Kiran Leonard (Akrotiri Poacher) strikes back with a mammoth slab of mind-warping drone. “Seminary” delivers 30 minutes of absolutely wonderful tonal shifts and exquisitely stacked sounds, inspired by stories of abandoned tube stations. You can almost feel the dark, reverberating aura of those tunnels resonating between your ears as the drones lay themselves bare before you. Opening track “Aldwych” begins with lo-fi droning guitars that are at once claustrophobic and intensely full of depth; a torrent of harmonics saturate the track almost to the breaking point, before breaking half-way through and dissolving splendidly into a cloud of levitating synth pads and halos of meandering, muted chords. We’ve gone from a subterranean vibe and dived deep into the murky water below, and it’s an absolutely thrilling trip. The track closes with an almost sci-fi sounding coda, machines beeping softly while modulating high-pitched drones cascade into one another in a drunken haze. On the flip side, we have “Inbound,” maybe one of the most spectacular dark ambient pieces to grace our ears this year. Tumultuous bass rumbles collide with shimmering piano stabs, like the aftershock of an earthquake resonating the ivories in slow motion. Almost betraying the sub-surface moans of “Aldwych,” here we are transported to incredible night-time canyons, and as the first movement fades away, the moon crests the horizon amidst the sound of distant bird calls. A voice in the distance is babbling in schizophrenic Russian as echo-chamber tones rise to the surface. And then the babbling stops, falling away to ethereal, Eastern-tinged chants that pair with soft synth textures to absolutely mesmerizing effect. You could almost imagine someone having a religious experience to sounds like this, that is until the final shift of the track comes in and buries everything that came before it beneath vibrating low-end chords, calling the tape’s subterranean inception back for one more fateful ride down the tracks. Essential listening. w/  Download.

PF-049 Oak – ‘Silent Spring’ C60 $7
All the way from Stockholm, Oak grace Prairie Fire with one of the hottest, most visceral sludge recordings we’ve heard in a long time. In the first track alone, the listener is assaulted by gut-crushing bottom-end chords, built up by spacious, reverberating crescendos, entranced by hypnotic drum work, and enveloped by echoing, consuming vocals. Blissfully exhausting fare for the faint of heart, and there’s still five more tracks to go. What becomes most evident upon repeated listens is the sheer amount of control and composition that Oak mange to wrestle out of their instruments. The brutal intelligence contained within “Silent Spring” easily matches with the best of the sludge/psychedelic metal genre — and that’s saying something. Take “Realms of the Soil” as a prime example: the chords come slow, hard and slightly stuttered, only adding to the neck-snapping propulsion driven by the accompanying caveman drums. A third of the way through its 11-minute march, the drums break off to leave only lone menacing guitar pawing away in the distance; the drums slither their way across the foreground before resuming a gentle pounding, as the band builds the looping crescendo up to the perfect pitch; and finally, the hammer-drop — a renewed sense of rhythmic sloth, each player exercising the greatest of care while driving the hook deep into yr skull. And yet, there’s more than perfectly-executed sludge on display here. “No Birds Sing” opens with guitars humming across a desert plateau — far from brutal, but no less likely to pull you in with their addictive melodies. “Indiscriminately From the Skies” stretches a lonely, overdriven guitar across a void of subtle tone and reverb; chest-thumping drums join the fray, but only add to the sense of isolation as they echo across the space; squealing, high-end strings scream at the sky, and the track closes with a deep sense of desperation looming overhead. “Nature Fights Back” closes the album out in spectacular style, a war march with all the splendour of a cataclysmic landslide, boulders of tone and vocals piling overtop each other in a display of sheer, natural power. The entirety of “Silent Spring” has been recorded, mixed and mastered with jaw-dropping clarity while retaining a raw, abrasive feel; the vocals never over-power the instruments, but nothing gets buried in the background, either — each part is clearly discernible, a further testament to the precision with which this recording has been executed. We’re thrilled to welcome Oak to our catalogue, and can’t wait for this tape to sell out so we can convince them to make another with us. Trust us — you’ll be jamming this on repeat until the apocalypse descends on your doorstep. w/Download.


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