Seance Centre have launched a new Speculative Ethnography series, and I suspect that the concept is at least in part a nod toward Can and their “ethnological forgeries”. At the same time perhaps recognizing, and celebrating, the fact that in the 21st Century a considerable chunk of our cultural ethnicity is not determined by nature and ancient tradition, but instead by our modern man-made environment. That an old junglist record might actually be as much of a totem as, say, a balafon or a banjo.
The inaugural release comes from Parisian Alan Briand, aka Shelter, who as well as making music, is a designer of some repute, and has worked on all of the Canadian label`s artwork to date. His quintet of 4-track, totally analogue, recordings were inspired by William S. Burroughs` novel, Cities Of The Red Night – the first installment of his final trilogy, which ended in The Western Lands and the mantra, “Here to go” – a complex incantation / word ritual intended to beat and cheat death. Alan`s compositions` construction no doubt employed Burroughs` famous cut-up technique.
Taken as a whole, the E.P.`s a kind of mechanical, industrial, meditation. A very urban ambient. A lullaby for those more accustomed to the hums and sinewy drones of a metropolis that never sleeps, than cicadas and bucolic birdsong. Cold, icy atmospheres of stretched ethereal sighs, where subliminal grooves slowly evolve and sneak up on you. Big bass drops and metallic rimshots rocking the underlying undulations. Aural landscapes subjected to significant phasing and delay. Any percussion racing, almost out of earshot, while serene symphonics take the fore – swirling sustained sequences, that spin, spiral and circle back on themselves, creating small whirlpools of sound.
Dub Of The Scarlet City is a deft, appropriately dubwise, development. A chugging echoed emission, embroidered, decorated, with a Middle Eastern melody, stolen, sampled, chants, and plenty of spring reverb feedback. The Dog Catchers and Perfect Witness are both jet black electro, and thoroughly recommended for fans of Nummer and Going Good`s deeply textured, obsidian output. The former is a “techno” of tubular sine waves – Shelter jamming with a noise like a robot playing a didgeridoo. The latter is a short of sci-fi spiritual jazz. Its machine-gun-MIDI`d rattle moving at a considerable clip. Sonically similar to Hoshina Anniversary’s recent Jomon, and again Middle Eastern, North African flavoured, I guess in tribute to Burroughs` beloved Morocco.
Shelter`s Le Sommeil Vertical is out now, on Seance Centre.