Matches collects a tranche of recordings made by Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer between 2009–2015, using their distinctive bellows, tape and shruti box setup, which is complemented by various degrees of processing. Some of the material was recorded live, some in a studio, and other pieces are a mixture of both. It’s a lovely, chewy listen, with a propulsive tangibility that threatens to morph into blocky, robot grooves at certain points.
Listening to Matches alongside Ideal Bypass, last year’s cassette release on Hideous Replica, is an enlightening experience. That latter release isolated the constituent parts of a single Coppice work – an installation from 2013 called Ideal – and placed them onto separate sides of the tape, thus making it possible to gaze into the guts of the duo’s process, zooming into the detail of these building blocks and wallowing in their protean delights. And so, when we listen to Matches, hearing those separate components built back into the fabric of new tracks (more or less) gives us a richer, more nuanced appreciation of what’s going on, a bit like that old woman in the children’s story who learns to appreciate her house more once she empties it. Which is better? The austere spaces of the single-source exploration, or the machine polyphony of the layered assemblages? My feeling is neither – they’re two perspectives on the same thing, like the noirish chiaroscuro of a black-and-white photo laid alongside the sumptuous, full-colour depth of a high definition print.
True, there’s the odd moment on Matches that cleaves to the narrow-spectrum linearity of Ideal Bypass. On the wriggling voltage-current buzz of Bromine, for example, only the ghost of a bellows breath is audible in the background, offering only the most minimal distraction from an insistent drill whine that seems strong enough to slice through solid rock. But, for the most part, tracks are stacked with layers of wheeze and crunch, arranged on the vertical as well as horizontal axis. The ambient noise of Labile Form arranges pottery wheel creaks and abrasive drones over a liquidy rumble and accompanying power drill judders. Matches really gets fun, however, on the junkyard disco of Bramble, where the pumping squeaks are just enough to lay down a rusty groove for the chomping crunch and fucked-fanbelt whirrs to lock into. A subdued metronomic interlude breaks out into a full-on mechano-groove monster, with pitch shifted accordion drones, loopy bellows huffs and broken circuit fizz all contributing to the clockwork dance-off vibe.
And if your household appliances still need to dance round their handbags, they can carry straight on to the happy machine hardcore of Caper, where the blowsy puff-loops keep pushing the bpms up like some deranged piece of assembly line plant, even as the air-filled drone miasma surrounding it refuses, point-blank, to shake its money-maker. The old rusty lungs cark out after about four minutes of that stuff, leaving a cloud of bronchial wheezes and gas-leak hisses, and even when the old boneshaker riddim starts up again, it’s a shadow of its former self, instead floating weightlessly on a bed of static ooze.