Friday, July 4, 2008

Rack Rash - Remembers the Islets of Langerhans (Breaking World Records 3" CD-R)

Figure most of you will be off celebrating today--beers, burgers, etc...--but unfortunately I've been abandoned by my family despite my coming up from school, so it's back to the blog for me. That said, this is a nice little item I got as a freebie from George over at Breaking World Records with my Watersports disc. Figured the Watersports was too old to cover at this point, but then again I don't really know how long this puppy's been out either. Oh well, it's getting the treatment.

Rack Rash is the pseudonym of Tim Sheldon, a member of Northampton based weirdo rock group Fat Worm of Error. While that group goes for a kind of deranged pop song though, Rack Rash doesn't come close, though deranged certainly still applies. Instead this is a weird sonic collage of looped lion growls, dance beat segments, and water splashing rhythms. The first track, the longer of the two, has a certain element of break beat techno going on, though this is far from what that may imply in terms of sound sources. Instead, this is an erratic and playfully rich affair in which Sheldon seems to want to turn everything into a rhythmic sound, looping spinning bicycle wheel sounds over weird electronic pulses, bells, seals, anything, all of which bounces around the speakers like a manic clown. A train whistle is layed over a thudding bass before it cuts to the clickity clack of a drum machine. Even the shimmying up and down of a cello string (or something) makes its way on here. It's all highly constructed, and getting each sound must have taken forever.

When gamelan-like tin pan rattling makes its way in, the piece takes on a distinctly Skaters-y vibe, setting off a building of density and some degree of cohesion as the piece settles into its own. For a while all we get is bells and chimes bouncing around the room. It's all very disorienting, but beautifully so. Even more disorienting is the cut into track two, which starts off almost exactly where track one left off. This time through we're treated to more gamelan material before a harp-like melody comes in that could practically be a fragment from Debussy. This environment slowly moves along, wading in as notes get added one by one and scraping percussion builds beneath. When the whole thing cuts to a whip-like dance beat over sustained synth tones, it takes a distinct move towards krautrock ground before the whole gamelan thing comes back over it, melding the two at last. Only to be interrupted by what? A walrus playing over two-step?

Basically, the name of the game here is that the thing just keeps moving, one bizarre carnival ride after another. The fact that Sheldon's able to pull all of this off in less than fourteen minutes is outstanding--it moves so quickly from point to point that eventually you give up on trying to make sense of it, which is exactly where he wants you. Yet these themes keep coming back, giving the impression that Sheldon may actually be doing quite a lot with very little original source material. Sure, his collection of sounds is vast, but it's tough to tell how much of it is him just manipulating ones that he's already used. When the scratching chalkboard noise and gamelan ringing fade out it happens so fast that you're left as dazed as the first few minutes made you. Weird stuff, perfect for the 3" format, and apparently still available. A neat little package too, quite plain on the one side but the bird and temple-headed fellow on one side, and the elephant on the inner part make for an even more intriguing little package. Cool stuff, try it.

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