Fading Tapes – Cartographer

Posted: 4 July 2021 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , ,

Panurus Productions – 4th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Fading Tapes: a moniker that casts allusions to degradation, the wear and fade through the passage of time, the notion of impermanence and the significance of medium – because the medium isn’t only the message, it’s the determining factor in the lifespan of a record, whereby digital is supposedly forever, but analogue corrodes, deteriorates, and ultimately becomes unusable.

A Cartographer is one who draws or makes maps, and Fading Tapes’ latest work is, ins ways, both map and territory. The titles of the four tracks sketch out the features of the locations in the most minimal of forms – and these aren’t necessarily natural geographical landforms or biomes, but remains of human activity left marking the landscape.

The sequencing of the four compositions, each of which span around fifteen minutes apiece, very much create the sensation that the listener is being guided on a journey, and there is a clear linearity to Cartographer.

Opener ‘East Valley’ calls us to the ritual with an insistent tribal drumming and wailing pipe before… actually, before what the fuck? It’s not so much a building of layers of sound as it is a jet plane flying overhead, devastating the image of a hidden tribe enacting an ancient, esoteric ritual. And this is the dynamic of the piece – ancient collides with modern, and as immense gongs and cymbals crash, ringing out into an expansive desert, unchanged for centuries, hidden from the march of technology and evoking a deep-seated spirituality, the disruptions are deep incisions that disrupt without care for the existing habitat. But over time it’s the soft, supple droning ambience and wordless vocal tones that ring out into a spacious echo that come to dominate. For once, nature, and the old world, wins out as so-called progress falls by the wayside: the valley remains unconquered.

‘Bones’ is a more contemporary-sounding drone work, with conventional western percussion propelling a deep, dark surge of slow-burning desert rock that’s slowed to a the pace of drifting dunes, and the sound is dense. The snare rings out into a cavern of reverb – it’s almost dubby, but it’s accompanied by wailing feedback, that does on, and on, and endless mid-range drones. We learn little, if anything, of the bones themselves, or their origins, but there is a sense that there is little interest in the real detail of the past, and that a sketched narrative is all that there is an appetite for. Instead, to the present, and the future.

The cymbals grow in dominance on the tempestuous ‘Boats’, but again, echoes and shadows dominate, and this very much feels like a window on an historical event, the soundtrack to a battle or other catastrophe at sea where boats were lost beneath the waves. To all intents and purposes, this is a spacious post-rock piece, but it possesses a richness, a level of detail, and a degree of ambience, that is so much more.

The final track, ‘Red Dry Land’ is a hypnotic piece that drifts without real movement, a nagging motif backed by a thrum that simply thumps on unchanging for what feels like an eternity. There’s a scratchy guitar that’s reminiscent of Andy Moor, and mines a more avant-jazz seam, but retains that expansive post-rock vibe, too.

The map charts a route, and as it progresses, it leads the listener back to themselves. This all feels highly evocative, and conjures images in the mind’s eye – but every perception is different. Perhaps that difference ultimately does come down to the map, and one’s experience of the territory – for while the former is fixed, factual, the latter is not, and will always be coloured by individual realities, the eye of the explorer. You may know exactly where you are, and still be lost. With Cartographer, Fading Tapes point the way but provide no real answers. But perhaps that’s ok: the enjoyment is in the journey rather than the destination.

AA

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