DRET Skivor // Bad Tapes – 5th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s niche, and then there’s microniche. Swedish cassette label Dret Skivor, this time in collaboration with Bad Tapes, present a split release that on paper doubles the audience, meaning they could probably shift a larger run. So is the run of just twelve copies of the cassette an act of wilful obscurantism? Or is it simply an awareness of market reach for what is, by all accounts, an obscure and difficult release?

Housed in some particularly (out of character) tranquil fine art depicting a rustic scene worthy of Turner, created by the ubiquitous one-man noise scene that is Theo Gowans, this collaborative effort was recorded to celebrate the midsummer of 2021 – released, appropriately just days after the end of British summertime, and also coincidental with November’s Bandcamp Friday.

Side A is occupied by ‘midsommar’, a celebration Scandinavian style. It’s not exactly a celebration in the sense of a carnival atmosphere, but it is a celebration of a momentary pause, the point at which the year hangs at its apex before its gradual retreat back towards darkness and autumn.

It manifests as fourteen minutes of ominously hovering drone during which almost precisely nothing happens. It’s ominous, and its power lies in its commitment. That is to say, it’s the Waiting for Godot of drones. Practically nothing happens. There is no discernible variation. There’s not even much to listen to for change; the texture is flat, the tone is flat. So many releases are referred to as exponents of drone, but this, this is the definition of drone. It’s not doomy, it’s not dark: it’s almost completely blank. Not so much sound pouring into a sonic void, but fourteen minutes whereby sound creates a sonic void.

Flipside ‘midsummer’ is typically Gowans; midsummer English style – some chatter over the setting up of mics and the loke, some field recording ambience, birdsong and a small choir starts things off gently if there’s a lot going on at once, and then a barrage of feedback and churning noise that obliterates everything. It gradually slides into a morass of interweaving drones that undulate and twist, with all sorts of extraneous fizzes and scrapes intersecting throughout. If ‘midsommar’ is a smooth drone, an endless stretch to a clear horizon ‘midsummer’ is an unsettled and unsettling experience dominated by disruption, there is discord and discontinuity, and a pervading air of discomfort.

Taken together, the two pieces provide contrasting perspectives which illustrate that experience is not fixed, but something which comes from perception.

AA

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