Posts Tagged ‘Tavern Eightieth’

Tavern Eightieth (TVEI) – 31st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Don’t read too much into the Hallowe’en release date for this solo offering from Matt Christensen, who is more usually found lending his voice to Chicago genre-straddling guitar-based act Zelienople. There are no guitars to be found here, or vocals, and despite the album title’s connotations of the predatory, the sinister and the dangerous, this is no haunting horrorshow or ultra-dark ambient work coughed up from the bowels of the earth, although the five tracks on Prowl are certainly strong on atmospherics.

The title track sets the mood, a murky groove softly bounces along, the insistent beats largely submerged by a thick, opaque subaquatic sonic murk which strangely deadens the sound and creates a sensation that’s almost physical rather than simply auditory. When the rhythms are completely absent, as on ‘Mountains of Fire (Remix)’, Christensen glides effortlessly into what one may reasonably call ‘pure’ ambience: the forms are vague, intangible, with no discernible sense of structure as the soft and slowly-drifting washes of sound shift and turn gradually.

‘Spending It’ is perhaps the most haunting track on the album, crackles and pops – somewhere between the click and clatter of worn vinyl and the cracks and snaps of burning wood – form the distant rhythmic undercurrents which echo through the warping tones before being carried away into silence on a long, low wind-like drone. In contrast, ‘Junk Test’ is altogether more buoyant, bubbling beats flit beneath rippling Tangerine Dream synth motifs.

Everything is kept low-key, the sounds dissolving into one another and in a slow but continual evolution. It’s a radical departure from Christensen’s work with Zelienople, but, as one may expect, it’s an album that demonstrates a keen awareness of the dynamics of texture and tone. In the context of Prowl, these elements are explored in their most delicate and subtle forms, and in its field, it’s an accomplished and enjoyable work.


Matt Christensen – Prowl

Tavern Eightieth – TVEI23 – 28th March 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Given the fact that this release contains pieces based primarily around delicate solo piano work, there’s a curious bluntness and odd directness about the title that stirred a discomfort on first contact with Euan McMeeken’s latest project. The phrase ‘Love, if you love me, lie beside me now’ has a kind of domineering tone, with hints of emotional blackmail. It’s needy, but with controlling undercurrents. But then, such lines, particularly with the doubling of the word ‘love’, also has echoes of Elizabethan poetry.

None of this is conveyed in the six compositions here, at least on the surface. ‘No One Can Reach Us Now or Ever’ is an elegant piano piece, although there are atmospheric rumblings in the distance. In combination, they contrive to form an emotional ambivalence: the possibility that this could be an uplifting dream of safety and security is equalled by the bittersweet elegy framed in the knowledge that the only safe place is not on this earth. Perhaps it’s another subtle tendril of control, the same need to cling manifesting as separation from the world, enforced isolation. Perhaps not. Perhaps McMeeken’s compositions are intended as blank walls on which the listener’s thoughts and reactions can be projected, mapped, explored. Perhaps Ali Millar’s short prose piece provides the direction in its melancholy-hued narrative. More than anything, it’s not what is said over the course of the six tracks, but what is unsaid and what lies beneath the surface.

The pieces, although not designed to follow any overarching theme, do flow into one another very naturally, and the tone changes progressively between the beginning and the end. Sadness creeps into ‘Seen Through a Doorway’, and the notes waver and flicker in and out on ‘Under the Arc of the Sky’, and hang in a thick air, intimating hesitation, uncertainty. Strings enter at the midpoint of the final track, ‘There is Nothing Yet I am Here’, spreading an uplifting mood and a sense of optimism. And yes, perhaps there is hope. Perhaps this album s best appreciated when not searching for the meaning. Sometimes, some things simply are, and this is a magnificent, thoughtful musical work.




Tavern Eightieth – TVEI24 – 29th April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Described as ‘a large compilation of diverse and exciting music from new and exciting artists,’ VA1+2 is, first and foremost, a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Arguably, that’s reason to purchase it in itself, but of course, in truth, any compilation sells on the basis of the music. The immense range of music on offer on VA1+2 is its real strength, and offering over two hours of music (that’s 22 tracks by 22 different artists packing out a brace of discs), it’s a veritable boon of contemporary electronic, ambient, experimental, electro-acoustic, improvisational and more.

From the semi-ambience of Midoro Hirano’s ‘Regrowth’ and the swampy Latina stylings of Manouchi Bento’s ‘Anpre dans tanbou lou’, there’s much to soak in on disc one. Band Ane’s bleepy, space-age ambient Krautock is particularly intriguing.

Disc two spans the dolorous yet delicate piano-led instrumental of International Debris’ ‘Translucent Orb’ to the eerily ominous ‘Kiki and Bouba’ by Isnaj Dui, via the ethereal transcendental post-punk folk hymnals of ‘This Thought Won’t Last’, the contribution from Zelienople and Glacis’ elegiac epic ‘As long as water flows’.

One of the common pitfalls of compilations, and in particular compilations to raise funds for charity, is that they’re often a bit of a hotch-potch mess, no better than the naff giveaway discs that come with magazines (or used to come with magazines: I don’t know as I stopped buying magazines some time ago, at the point when the quality of features and reviews vs cover price became unfavourably skewed toward the latter) plugging whatever was hot at that moment in the eyes of that publication, with a bunch of album tracks and B-sides taking up the majority of the space. VA 1+2 feels – and sounds – very different. Tavern Eightieth haven’t just taken anything that’s been floating around, and while I despise the overuse of the word in our post-postmodern hipsterised word, there’s a sense that they’ve actually curated a compilation which represents the label. There’s clearly a lot of thought and effort gone into this, from the selection of material itself to the mixing and sequencing of the tracks. And so, while it is a fundraiser, and for an extremely meritorious cause (I’ll spare the lecture here on the underfunding of research into Alzheimer’s given the number of people it affects).

Finally, mastered by Fraser McGowan with an ear on optimal clarity and dynamic range over volume, there’s a sense that every aspect of this release is about doing the music justice. And in turn, they do the charity and the listener justice. Everyone wins.

Tavern Eightieth VA1 2

Tavern Eightieth – VA1+2 at Bandcamp