Tape Loops is full of the fuzzy, abstract forms that have characterised much of C Reider’s discography over the past decade or so. As ever, the process of composition is critical, but what makes this such a standout release is the way in which his process informs the outcome – the rugged density and mysterious shapes that comprise the 33 minutes or so of the work – so perfectly.
Source material for Tape Loops was a whole bunch of second-hand cassette tapes that Reider had picked up from various charity shops and junk stores in the summer 2014. “I cracked open the shells of many of these thrift tapes and dumped the innards into a box, giving me a big squirming tangle of unspooled tape,” he says in the PDF booklet that comes with the album’s digital release. Those lengths of tape were then manipulated in various exotic and inventive ways – slicing sections into thin lengths, cutting other sections into tiny pieces then placing them onto adhesive tape, braiding lengths of tape together, and so on – to create the distinctive loops that make up the album’s single track.
It’s this deconstruction and reconstruction of the physical tapes themselves that give Tape Loops its unique character. Infernal, mud-like bloops and bubbles merge into ghostly vocal fragments, monoliths of grey shadows and haunted orchestras. At one point there’s a visceral back-and-forth that’s like some low-end turntablist on downers. Later on a slice of buzz saw fuzz cuts through the gloop before sinking back into the swampy layers. Yet the essential tape-ness of the recordings glares out, reminding us that these eldritch sounds could not have been made by anything other than mashed up tape, even as the various deformations and exploitations of the medium open up new portholes of peculiar sound. I particularly like the malevolent hissing and buzzing at about 19 minutes, spitting and growling like a corrosive fire at a chemical plant, over which globules of melting, plasticky sludge float like toxic spores.
This combination of blunt physicality and the plastic formations and deformations puts Tape Loops in a different place to those other well-known tape wranglers, William Basinski or Grisha Shakhnes, for example. While those artists are expert at summoning up the revenant sonics embedded in this decaying technology, with Tape Loops, Reider achieves something much more evocative, summoning what are often very alien-sounding forms that are yet shot through with almost recognisable sounds. The familiar coexists with the unfamiliar in an uncanny superimposition.
Before mangling them, Reider used some of the tapes as starting points for his five-track Not Subliminal album (originally released on the Control Valve netlabel) and, while the results are diverting – the strangled, gargling yelps of Harghts are a high point – it’s this extra layer of sculpting that takes Tape Loops to another level of (de)composition. It’s a fine work, and even though physical copies – the first 20 of which came packaged with a one-of-a-kind loop created by Reider for this project – have long since sold out, digital versions are still available. Drift into the crumpled plastic ocean.