If the names Fraser McGowan, Euan Millar-McMeeken and Porya Hatami are not in your collection, then this a perfect time to rectify the situation. Better known as Caught In The Wake Forever and glacis, McGowan and Millar- McMeeken respectively are not strangers to each other, with Caught In The Wake Forever appearing on Millar-McMeeken’s Mini50 label back in 2011 with his debut release “All The Hurt That Hinders Home”. Millar-McMeeken himself other than recording as glacis (which has appeared on labels such as Facture/Fluid Audio, Soft Corridor and Tavern Eighteenth) is/has been part of Graveyard Tapes and The Kays Lavelle. Masterer Porya Hatami is a prolific Iranian ambient artist who has made his name since 2012 with an array of releases on Time Released Sound, Line, Inner Ocean and Karlrecords to name a few. With housekeeping out-of-the-way, let’s get on with the music.
The label, Crow Versus Crow had this to say about the duo’ work: “Deconstructing and expanding upon Neo-Classical and Ambient templates to produce a body of work that revolves around improvisation (with a small “i”) and noise (with a small ‘n’). These six short works hinge upon glacis’ raw piano improvisations, recorded, without prior planning or subsequent revision, straight to Iphone Voice Memo Software. That is not to say there is a flippancy to these recordings. Rather, they are considered, concentrated distillations of reflected emotional experience, precise and lyrical.
In response, Caught In The Wake Forever produced beds of glitching, warbled, heavily textured sound that lay in dialogue with the piano works. Using the Make Noise Cartesian & Akai S20 Sampler to incorporate culled and processed snapshots of domestic minutiae, Caught In The Wake Forever’s intricate abstract compositions mirror the fragility and transient ephemerality of glacis’ piano pieces.”
The release is a short one, clocking in at just over eleven minutes in length. The tracks sound like pages out of a diary, like small snatches of time buried under the detritus of life or memory.
“019901” a lo-fi recording of piano with all the creeks and movement captured is paired with electronics that warp across almost silently with fractured tones buzzing around as if cut up sections of electrical disturbances. Millar-McMeeken’s children are heard half way through the piece and the way it stops, you get the feeling that he’s gone to see what is happening with them. The sounds of turning on and off the recorder give a sense of “I’ll see what I can record while still doing my parental duties”, which to anyone with children is highly relatable. The piano playing has a reflective, inwards looking sound with thought-out keys and phrasing noticeable.
“019908” a pumping rhythm with an occasional screech accompanies the similar sounding lo-fi piano recording. Scattered electrical detritus shrouds it gently with the pumping rhythm being at odds with the pace of the piano playing, which feels semi improvised as the longer track goes, the freer from form it feels.
“019905” electrical buzz, a hum of sorts, field recordings and piano combine to give you a track that sounds as if it was being heard through a radio that has not clearly received the signal. Towards the end, a collection of electronics take the track in a deeper direction, bordering more on ambience than the static swathe of previous tracks. This gently builds up just prior to the end of the piece and feels like bustling layers of sound. The piano parts, which can be a bit of a background sound when focusing on the other sound ephemera, have a slightly melancholic sound, but with a small bit of hope which is emphasised by the small repeating motif at the end of their part.
“019904” a swarming granular sound with glitch like water droplet sounds and natural sounds lead into sparse piano sounds. The piano sounds submerged, the sharpness of the instrument has been smoothed out, leaving it with an almost echo like quality. This is the first track where I have thought it was more led by McGowan than Millar-McMeeken as the emphasis is more on the processed and experimentally based sounds than the piano. At times there is a bit of a fever like to the grittiness of the electronics, where other times there is an alien like atmosphere.
“019903” the distant sounding piano that opens the piece feels like it is a fragment of itself. Vinyl static and much clearer, but ever so reverberant piano lead the piece to a similar feel as the opener. Other than sounding a bit warped, the piano has a feel of confidence and moving forward. There is a sense of resilience on the tone that is created Towards the end of the track the piano reverts back to that fragment of itself while more of the ghostly sounding nature recordings and electronics swirl around.
“019902” starting off similar to the previous tracks end, this one feels like it is has a shared technique that has popped up on the previous tracks. There is the emotive piano that has a romantic edge to it, glitches, snatches of sounds that enter the piece occasionally and a return to ambient territories that was briefly heard in “019905”. It’s like parts of the Ep have been distilled together in one track to get a complete representation of the what the Ep means.
As I mentioned before, the six tracks contained on this release (which is a 100 run cassette that features the same program on both sides, due out on September 17) run just over eleven minutes in length. They act as vignettes of what, hopefully is something bigger to come. Possibly the lengths of the tracks were based on the limitations that were used in recording the initial piano pieces. There is enough here to whet the appetite of listeners and tease with anticipation of what could come if the two artists were to expand on this initial collection of snippets of innocent, intriguing and beguiling sounds.
You can see/hear more from Crow Versus Crow here.