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Friday, April 27, 2007

CASSETTE CULTURE #10: FLAK MASK

"Uncle Henry's Ecco Duplex": this one's on the Night People label run by the mighty Raccoo-oo-oon and dead good it is too:



Featuring Andy from New Orleans based Impractical Cockpit.

Music is about either immersion or escapism, but here it actually sounds like someone is trying to escape from one of these tracks, jackhammer wooden-drum loops try and break through the third wall and into the listener's ear. The beats doppler up n down the keyboard, sounding at points like Woody Woodpecker on PCP; or Einst├╝rzende Neubauten auditioning for Riverdance; or a rescue-crew in Stallone's "Daylight"; or maybe just a bit like one of Frozen Corpse's harsher Casio n sampler mulch-jams. It ends with a high-pitched yelp of pleasure.

More wooden drums on the next track, but more staccato-sounding: reminds me a bit of an early Chris Jeffs' Kinesthesia tune on Rephlex, but at half-speed. As the tune continues, the drum beat becomes less rigid and m-m-more springier (sounds like someone's manually filtering it or maybe putting some modulation on the sample...). There's some low-end rumble and what sounds like an out-of-control turbine-generator starts dancing around the lop-sided beats on over-sized paint-tin legs.

After this, things get less claustrophobic and more spacious-sounding; Flak Mask sprawl out on the sofa and put their feet up while malevalent kids toys crawl and whirl and hop around on the shag-pile beneath them, their little red n yellow lights flickering dimly under the coffee-table as their batteries slowly run down. Something makes plinky-plonky noises while an enormous disembodied squeaky shoe walks around the room, following a nervous bongo-player trapped inside the background noises from a 1962 episode of "The Outer Limits". A parade of rubber dogs passes by in the street outside, bashing dustbin lids together. Boy, they sure sound like they're having fun!

There's a nice blend here of what I'd call 'trad.' (ie late 60s/early 70s pre-TG) electronics with mistreated guitars, abused cheapo-samplers, percussion and found objects: it gives the tracks a wide pallette of source-sounds...no two tracks sound even remotely similar...warmth n wit n playfulness oozes from the music: at one point it sounds a little like Can's "Unlimited Edition" if Irmin Schmidt had been time-shifted to 1987 and given some Casio home keyboards to play with: forced to use some pre-set called Afro-Marimba he soon finds that every other note is broken, so he thumps and bashes his way around the keyboard, notes trilling and rattling against each other like Afro-Marimbas do, while the other members bash and scratch at their instruments thru an echo-deck. "A little more ring-modulation, please, Holger..."

Later, things get a bit more psychedelic as gtr noise piles up against itself and feeds backwards thru a tape-spool, chased by spooky little sonar noises: "There's something off the starboard bow, Cap'n...400 metres and closing...it's some sort of squid, but it's enormous..." The sounds slide over each other, like sheets of scrap metal coated in vaseline, shifting their weight as they turn in their sleep, lost in some restless nightmare involving dead relatives catching fire in a luminous restaurant. Coats put themselves on, sleeves sliding over invisible limbs; a hat floats above an empty, up-turned collar and the whole ensemble leaves the cafe and walks off down the street. Driverless cars glide past without wheels.

I'm listening to this in 1973 with the door open. Outside in the street somewhere, a car-alarm howls like an electronic banshee, mixing itself effortlessly in and out of one of Flak Mask's jams.

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