‘Paper Wasps’ sees Gateshead’s Invisible City Records shift away from the gloom-ridden drones that have characterised much of its roster so far, to a looser, more kinetic assemblage of metallic scuffles and greyscale drizzles, courtesy of Matt Atkins and Peter Marsh.
Don’t get me wrong – if it’s heavy melancholy and overcast mulch you want, tapes from Culver, Diurnal Burdens and Depletion will hit your spot better than just about anyone in the droney field. But Atkins and Marsh are doing something different. The four tracks on offer here have a tactile asymmetry that doesn’t fit into a drone-shaped box. Using a palette of electric bass, objects, contact mics and pedals, as well as computer and ‘various machines’, the duo delivers a rough-edged aesthetic somewhere between electroacoustic improvisation and the computer-based composition of Atkins’ solo work.
Here, restless, tinny scuffles are juxtaposed with washes of glimmering electronics. Streams of fluffy static batter waves of grating rust. On ‘Sedimentary’, clotted basslines skitter around click-clacking percussion, like some grumpy teenager knocking out Level 42 riffs as auntie sorts out the cutlery draw. ‘Coral Rations’ transforms a bracing wire-wool scrape into incessant helicopter syncopations and slinky rubbed metal wriggles.
What I dig about ‘Paper Wasps’ is the duo’s restraint in post-production, a strategy that lends a live feel to their sound-making excursions. Thus ‘Icon 4’, with its layers of grey bustle, syncopated fidget and UFO electronics, has a lovely, open-ended vibe without losing momentum – a result, I suspect, of any lulls or self-indulgence being diligently pruned back in the edit. This resistance to airless (and lifeless) perfection is admirable and shows Atkins and Marsh to be keen judges of their own material. Keeping it real, always.