Friday, September 25, 2020
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Artist: Terrible at Small Talk (@)
Title: The Abandoned Express Doubts
Format: CDx2 (double CD)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I thought I recognized the "fertanish" in the artist's email address; turns out I reviewed one of his releases when he went by the Fertanish moniker back in 2012. Terrible at Small Talk/Fertanish is Bill Murphy from Washington, D.C., and TAST is the most recent moniker evolved from Fertanish. The new name reflects an evolution to free experimental music, absent of vocals and blessed with a disintegration of common musical structure. Terrible At Small Talk’s first release, The Abandoned Express Doubts, is initially a composition of chaos that accepts peaceful interludes. As it continues, contentment becomes the focus while chaos is welcomed as a supportive friend to maintain balance.

The main album consists of four lengthy tracks - Superhuman (Part 1); Stauros (Part 2); Solitary (Part 3); Sepulchre (Part 4). The accompanying EP contains one long track clocking in at 25:38. That one is a composition for WTW8800YW0, a recording of sounds made while replacing a bearing on a washing machine. Actually, it is a remarkably rhythmic odyssey that should certainly enrich your life and perspective in the mellower side of the experimental noise genre. (There's actually a section in it towards the end that sounds a bit like a gamelan orchestra.) As to the main work, this was composed mixing cello, piano, guitar, guzheng, analog synths and found sounds to create a composition based on the idea that peace and chaos can exist in harmony. "Superhuman" (17:06) sounds like a jangling drone, with numerous overdubbed elements and repeated occurrences that does manage to change to a degree over time in its cacophonous symphony of odds and sods. This is the kind of piece you might expect to have heard from La Monte Young with John Cale and Lou Reed in the 1970s if only they had collaborated on such an album.

"Stauros" (18:36) is minimal compared to the maximality of "Superhuman" working with individual feedbackish tones turned drones picking up richer noise variants along the way. Somewhere near the middle some improvised plucked notes hint at an abstract oriental melody and this is sewn throughout the rest of the piece. It ends on a much more rhythmic skein than it began, but ultimately in drone again. "Solitary" (13:09) begins with hazy, shoegazey guitar that morphs into sustained drone tones with a slowly pulsating yet shimmery effect. There are deeply chambered background incidents (of who knows what) along the way adding some uneasiness to the otherwise restive ambience. By the time piece is nearly over though, the uneasiness has grown and looms large over what otherwise would have been a tranquil excursion. "Sepulchre" (13:18) is the darkest of the four tracks, employing more "found sounds" and sonic elements not previously realized in the other tracks. While the main element is a modulated low drone, there are loops of tinkling bells, obscured voices, bowed cello tones, hollowish noise, and other sonic effluvia. It sounds as if it were recorded in a tunnel; simultaneously spacious yet claustrophobic. I suppose it does live up to its title. Noise-drone for those who prefer their noise toned down, and drones tuned up.


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