The diffuse and esoteric outpourings of Graham Dunning and Stuart Chalmers have been poorly represented on this blog, I’m ashamed to say. Both are adepts in the ways of tape scrunch and noise sculpt, with various and manifold releases to their name. I’ve featured the first two instalments of Chalmers’ Imaginary Musicks here – and they’re great, Volume 2 in particular, but there are another two in the series to enjoy, not to mention the frankly marvellous Loop Phantasy series, in which snippets of pop, New Age and easy listening cassettes are fashioned into loops and then besmirched in edifying ways. Loop Phantasy 1 provides straightforward Reich-like fun, with layered stretches of tape gradually shifting out of phase, and Volumes 2 and 3 add overdubs and rudimentary production gimmicks to great effect. All three are highly recommended.
And as for Dunning, well, you have an experimental underground Renaissance man right here, with a glorious mandala of sound-mangling projects spinning out from the man’s grey matter in what seems like a continuous Technicolor stream. I’ve touched on his duo with saxophonist Colin Webster before, in which battered turntables and field recording dub plates add an itchy scratchy patina to Webster’s breathy clicks and parps, but this is really only the tip of the proverbial. Those whose tastes incline towards Da Beatz should be directed towards the robot phantasms of his Mechanical Techno project. Tape heads will dig his Recycled Tape and Music by the Metre outings. (Check ‘em all, and many more, out here: http://grahamdunning.com/project-tag/current-projects/) And anyone with thirsty ears will find plenty of aural matter with which to quench them on the regular Fractal Meat on a Spongy Bone radio show.
For Home Taping, this dynamic duo got together in Bristol, each filling a C60 with sonic matter and then swapping them over, before retiring to work over the other’s material, overdubbing, re-sampling and live mixing to create something new. It’s a collaboration not a split, with the pair’s identities totally submerged into a seething swamp of groaning, squelching sonic displeasure. And it’s this ego-less attitude that makes Home Taping such a good listen. Neither overly polite nor arrogantly disrespectful, each takes the scalpel and mouse to the other’s work with a kind of humble glee, as happy to wreak havoc on the source material as they are to have their own material stomped upon. You can’t tell who’s done what to whom, and that’s all good.
It’s sweaty, claustrophobic stuff, with chunks of electro-groove smothered in concrete dust, feverish scratches and corporeal, close mic’d huff and rustles. Side A gets going pretty quickly with echoey bongs and overloaded organ chords dissolving into a disjointed robot shimmy that sheds splinters of rusty grit everywhere it lurches. Plenty of dirty noise rumbles from all corners throughout this side, and it’s carefully sculpted and detailed, setting the more rhythmic electroid sections into grimy relief. Following the track listing is a bit of a challenge, but by my gimlet-eyed compass readings, It Cannot Be Seen Or Felt works itself up into a great storm cloud of greyness with enough low-temperature damp to work itself under your vest and into your ribcage, so much so that the rimshot and loops immediately following it feel like a right old serotonin rush. By the time the heartbeat metronome and shortwave crackle of – is it Sound Travels? – kicks in I’ve lost all of my bearings, happy just to float on the deep tidal mulch.
Side B continues with the scruffy noise, with all sorts of contact mic scraping, and unearthly creaking, interspersed with odd harp riff, like some serial killer going about their work with jaunty abandon. Space Organ is a welcome interlude early on, doing exactly what it says on the tin, its combination of astral synth chords, descending bloops and low-end rumbles doing a fine job of announcing the mothership’s descent. The bits that work best for me on this side are when those synths hum out in warm, fuzzy rays, often slowly phasing like a lighthouse swinging through its orbit, shining a path through the encrusted grit and abstract rattles and clunks. There are some lovely Subotnick-at-the-junkyard moments just before the halfway point – the track is Fire Belly, I think – where twirling electronic squiggles are sandpapered into smoothness by noisy rasps. But before long, everything is tossed in the gaping maw of a giant garbage disposal unit, its steel jaws roaring and howling as it munches down on the plastic and metal detritus that make up its daily diet. Only the ghost of a melody remains, the distorted, bluesy notes floating eerily in the humid night air. Goodnight sweet droids, and good luck.