How’s this for value? 40 minutes each of explorative lo-fi from the amusingly monikered Curt Crackrach (aka Nattymari, Netnanny, Ron Hardly...) and prolific citizen-of-the-world Ela Orleans, all for less than a fiver!
Anyway, Crackrach’s side opens with some library synth tones all shrouded in stuttering tape decay before taking us on an 18-track voyage into a world of tape hiss, lo-fi loops and sleepy grooves with lots of minimal synth and various other instruments, notably a big wibbly jew’s harp jam and an unexpected slice of smooth minimal soulpop. There’s John Carpenter synthscapes, awkward stuttering rhythmic loop chaos offset by smooth synths compressed against the beat until they flicker like dying tube-lights, hypnotic minimal passages, spy-soundtrack funk, loop-and-sample madness like a lo-fi Madlib...it’s unpredictable and slightly tongue-in-cheek but all very well-executed. Kind of comes across like a more demented take on Ela Orleans’s former band Hassle Hound in places actually - playful sampling, intricate rhythms and a finely tuned sense of musical narrative.
On the other side of course we have Orleans herself, with what the press release describes as “40 minutes of her work for television, soundtracks and radio remixed and re imagined with some new songs all woven together in this epic journey to some other place”. As we have come to expect from this lady, it’s marvellous, drifting seamlessly from one passage to another of spacious, insidious rhythms, melodies and ambience. There’s guitars, piano, strings, field recordings, analogue drones and ghostly choirs (not all at once) inhabiting these calm, sinister spaces which owe as much to classic score composers like Bernard Herrmann and Ennio Morricone (and maybe a touch of Lynch/Splet) as to contemporary minimal hauntologists like the Caretaker, Anworth Kirk or Leyland Kirby. At one point (lost track of titles by now) there’s watery drips and splashy footsteps creating a paranoid sense of unease with some spooky drones, but then a calming, gentle, muted piano brings in this disconnect that gives it a quite effective sense of foreboding, although it gently drifts into a delicious dreampoppy passage straight afterwards before we get too panicky.
The contributions on this side are almost entirely instrumental - although wordless vocals are sometimes used for texture and melody the only lyrical passage comes in the very final track. Stripped of the song-based approach of her other records, Orleans’s aesthetic ideas are really given a chance to stretch their legs and her ear for sound and texture, along with her knack for unsettling lo-fi chamber neoclassicism, really shine through here. Fantastic tape, clearly the bargain of the week.