I have to admit being unaware of Brady Kendall aka Alaskan Tapes. For whatever reason his name has not come across my radar. Over the years he has released a series of singles and three self released vinyl lps, the latest being “In Distance We’re Losing” which came out on August 10 in an edition of 100 clear vinyl and 50 Digipak CD copies (alongside Digital).
According to the press release “In Distance We’re Losing shows the fragile, and isolated side to Alaskan Tapes’ music. Focusing on evolving layers of instrumentation throughout long pieces, showcasing the textures of cello played by Raphael Weinroth-Browne, minimal guitar melodies, as well as incorporating vocals from Jay Rodger and Chantal Ouellette, In Distance We’re Losing combines the intricate melodic elements of modern classical composition, with the classic ambient techniques Alaskan Tapes’ is known for.”
I have a soft spot for artists who don’t rely on someone else to release their music. It shows in their dedication to what they are doing with their art and also in their belief in themselves. The album was prefaced by two single releases in “Maybe (feat. Jay Rodger)” and “Blue, In Script ” alongside a video for the former.
The album starts with the before mentioned “Maybe (feat. Jay Rodger)” which combines London-based Rodger’s double tracked vocals alongside plaintive piano. Normally vocals are not my thing, but Rodger has a great voice and one that is probably suited for a mainstream audience such as its quality. The piano leads into an ambient section which combines gritty static alongside drones, guitar and Rodger’s harmonizing vocals before the piano returns to the fold. An impressive start to the record.
“Paths” starts with a slow drone that evolves and sounds like some sort of squeezebox/bagpipe, but is more likely Weinroth-Browne’s cello which is slowly played and stretched out to a long drone and manipulated and layered alongside subtle guitar playing that takes more of a lead in the second half of the track to which it becomes the more dominant motif as the drones retreat further in the mix.
“In Distance We’re Losing” the title track combines Field Recordings that evoke a port or central city area while a squall like sound with static like glitches alongside Kendal’s Post Rock like guitar and swathes of ambient synths. The elements fuse together smoothly with the guitars being layered to give texture and rhythm and the ambience to give light. As the track continues the balance of elements changes to the point where the field recordings dominate to a point of almost noise.
“Blue, In Script” centers around minimalist piano while spindly drones and forlorn cello form the base for ethereal vocals by Heather Mcalendin to float above. The majority of elements drop out to reveal a short guitar section that was largely hidden before the piano takes center stage, until dark ambience like an impending storm with the occasional bird chatter and loops sees a return of the guitar lines alongside piano played in a choppy style. In the almost six and half-minute duration there is a lot of sonic territory is covered.
“Hours (feat. Chantal)” static, field recordings, drones and (presumably) the voice of Chantal Ouellette open this track before Eno-esque ambience, chiming guitars and cello come together with the cello taking center stage as the vocals get swallowed up in the mix only to fight back to front and center. The sound then becomes uncluttered with the guitars playing alongside Ouellette’s harmonies as for the first time on the record beats enter the fold alongside field recordings and male harmony vocals (possibly Kendall himself?) to a point where the phrase “This Can’t be the End” is repeated. The field recordings which appear to be manipulated water sounds build up in volume and lead into the intro for “We’re the Only Ones Here” which also uses the distorted/manipulated field recordings alongside before contemplative guitar is joined by short sections of looped distant percussion, bass guitar and drones which threaten to turn into a full-on post rock track only to subside to focus on the bass and field recordings. If this had become a full-on track in the direction it (in my opinion) looked to be heading it would have worked very well.
“Because Finally It’s Everything” spindly guitar based drones coalesce and grow with additional drones from cello fusing with haunting ghost like recordings to form a grand modern classical drone track. The recordings of the cello (made by Kendall) are vibrant and are layered over the other elements in way that brings them to the fore without drowning out the other elements. With the final two minutes returning to a quieter tone, it gives a sense of melancholy or despair as slightly muted piano comes in giving the track an extra emotional feel to it, which is similar to that of the cello.
“Tomorrow’s Song” found sound like field recordings of things being moved, taken away are joined by two drones in with different timbres that are joined by a third. They grow in intensity slowly building up, oscillating while the distant field recordings creak and clang. The drones disappear with one and a half minutes left to go and the shuffling of things, the moving around a room, openings doors continues with accompaniment of muted piano.
When artists make albums sometimes they can end up with material that is very familiar sounding to each track. With this album Alaskan Tapes has used a variety of different sounds and subsequently there is enough of a difference to each track so that it doesn’t fall into the ‘samey’ category (although sometimes there can be a slight over reliance on the same sort of drones). Kendall has followed the goals set out in the press release of evolving layers and showcasing the various vocalists and the cellist. It would be interesting to see more of the guitar and beats enter the mix (ala Lowercase Noises) as combined with the ambience, the piano and cello I think they would complement Alaskan Tapes’ music. Overall an enjoyable release with credit going to Kendall, the guest artists and the fabulous mastering from the ever-present Taylor Deupree.