Tom White & Stuart Chalmers: Awkward Objects

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Fractal Meat Cuts cassette and download

This inspired collaboration mixes Stuart Chalmers’ liquid cacophony with Tom White’s meticulous scrunch, resulting in a set that’s as unstoppable as a mudslide and as starkly beautiful as an estuary at low tide. It helps that the duo’s approaches are so different yet so complementary. The heightened tactility White gets by using reel-to-reel tapes – sufficient to give even the most hardened ASMR junky the heebie-jeebies – exerts a gravitational pull on Chalmers’ dense, swirling improvisations, slowing their hectic chase to a mulch-ridden surge. Chalmers confines himself to micro-cassettes this time around, a narrowing of focus that suits his partner’s ferric excursions perfectly.

So, synergies, yeah? ‘Spindle’ is an early belter, the layers of metallic clang softened by comfy tape crackle and spaced out reverb. ‘Spring’ judders and chatters in locked-groove delight, its spooling squiggles providing plenty of garble for the Dictaphone heads. But it’s the restraint that attracts – those gurgles never quite let loose, instead sparring with aluminium percussion in a stop-start ballet. And ‘Elliptical Orbit’ huffs and puffs like a brass rocket just about achieving escape velocity, while mournful organ and silvery twinkles offer mordant commentary.

Fans of these cats will, no doubt, be keen to sniff out echoes of their earlier work among the hectic jumble. For me, the rhythmic lope of ‘Trip Trap’ tips the wink to the more abrasive bits of Chalmers’ ‘Loop Phantasy’ and ‘Imaginary Musicks’ series. The muted bustle of ‘Possible Scales’, meanwhile, veers towards White’s immersion in texture on  the recent ‘Run Amok’. In any case, what’s thrilling about ‘Awkward Objects’ is the ability of both artists to feed their preoccupations into a joint effort, demonstrating a shared understanding while acknowledging their differences to create something distinct, mesmerising and lovely.

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https://fractalmeat.bandcamp.com/album/awkward-objects

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