Blue Tapes & Xray Records

They sound like two holes puncturing the fabric of reality – holes that disobey time and space; black holes then, where you can poke your head through and see what is really going on behind the curtain. The two side-long pieces of Piano Mating by Mats Gustafsson are incredibly pure, simple-sounding and slowly-ascending drones that feel convincingly like tractor beams for the soul. Is this spiritual music for heathens? It happened because we asked Mats to compose an album using an instrument he’d never recorded with before. He came back with one of the most bizarre pieces of kit ever – the Dubreq Pianomate. A deliciously odd device from the manufacturers of the Stylophone, which turns your nan’s living room piano into, well, a giant Stylophone! Mats doesn’t hook his up to a piano though. Instead he manipulates the machine on its own to wring out these strange, expressive sonic prayers. “‘Microtonal electronic maracas is perhaps an apt description? Ha ha!” Mats laughs of the unique sound of his Pianomate. “It is just a totally different beast compared to anything else I ever played. “The Piano Mate does whatever it wants really. But I can control pitch and volume and detune it while playing. The microtonal clusters that it offers are highly inspirational to work with and really something that is quite hard to achieve on the saxophones. “And I just love the sound of it. That color really kicks my mind and ass.” Compositionally, Mats let the unique restrictions and limited tonal palette of the Pianomate guide him, rather than him attempt to bend the unwieldy instrument to his will. “Making this music was a lot about creating a specific state of mind. Letting the music take over,” he explains. “Letting the sounds create the music. Slow. Listening for it and going for it. Never pushing it. Hard to describe, actually. And of course, part of the mystery of it all.” Although he admits he rarely listens back to his recordings once he’s finished with them, Mats says that Piano Mating has brought something new and indefinable to his iconoclastic music: “I really hear very different things every time I listen back to these recordings. I found them still very surprising and, funnily enough, very inspirational to me. In my sax playing, I get a lot of inspiration from listening to the piano mate. “I love my Piano Mate! – there should be one in every household!!!”

Following a couple of years of kind-of glib attempts at straplines for the Blue Tapes brand – ‘Just another cultural filtration system’, ‘Fraudulent pop’, ‘Future-proofing music by making it plastic’ etc. – we finally alighted on one that was kind of truthful: Secular drones & spiritual pop. These are the hemispheres of the musical component of the Blue Tapes art project. While the spiritual pop could describe the ecstatic, playful messes of Katie Gately, Henry Plotnick and Laurent Chambert, secular drones could meanwhile be found in the stripped-back-to-the-raw-nerves sounds of Mats Gustafsson, Father Murphy and The Fractal Skulls. Sometimes, such as on The Blue Tapes House Band: vol. 1, the two hemispheres converge. Sometimes blissfully, sometimes not. blue eighteen: Chemiefaserwerk taps into this mini-tradition of secular drones that we’ve curated. The two pieces on this cassette are the end-product of mad scientist experiments with tape manipulations that could rival the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, if the Workshop had never attempted theme tunes, and just churned out those psyche-scrambling incidental sound cues for early Doctor Who episodes. It is not to be listened to lightly. The component frequencies of these recordings are crackles, bumps, feedback and other tape-sourced errata, all building up to mind-cell-piercing drones. It isn’t aggressive, though. We’re not a noise label. Instead these compositions resemble hymns for alien artefacts – cold and full of weather and secrets. The effect is communicative and reverent, if not especially in thrall to human concerns such as emotion or empathy. This tape bristles with aural information; coded mantras from the days when data was magnetic and not binary.


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