Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Various Strangled Pairs Vol. 9: Outer Space (American Tapes CD-R)

If American Tapes is the cornerstone of contemporary noise, than John Olson is the concrete around it. The guy has his hand in so many projects of such variety that one can ardly argue there being any kind of schtick at all. Whether it's the celebrated noise trio Wolf Eyes, the free jazz/basement loner jamz of Graveyards, the high frequency mind fuckery of Waves, or the pseudo-ambient industrial scapes of Dead Comet Alive, it all represents a singular vision maintained by a vast series of guises. Well now Olson's done it again, releasing a work so far afield from his own aesthetic that one could hardly guess it to be an American Tapes item, let alone an Olson remix.

Of course Olson knows his source material well. Having been given a tape by Emeralds synth wizard John Elliott, Olson added to his "Various Strangled Pairs" series (all remixes by Olson of other people's material) with the most tripped out release I've heard from the label (which, to be fair, isn't all that many compared to the massive 800-plus output so far). Consisting of six tracks, the album represents a kind of perfect melding of the two Johns--this is no mash-it-to-hell free for all but rather a subtle opportunity for Big John to provide just a touch of grit and shape to Little John's already celestial creations.

The whole thing is replete with laser beams of sound shooting across, repeating, and stretching themselves before touching down, lights a flashing. At certain points Olson turns it up a notch or two (or is that Elliott...) with some hig frequency static or some low stuttering fuckery, but never so much as to block the passage of the cosmic sounds beneath. Like Emeralds' work, Elliott's stuff has a certain weight to it despite its beauty, a sort of fear-driven overload of spiritual proportions. Olson on the other hand is capable of the same sorts of constructive power, though his has always sounded more like it was either buried beneath the sea or captured in some glacier just north of the Arctic Circle. The two combined (see track three as evidence) seem to complete the picture entirely, making a complete sound world from heaven to hell. And it's just as scary as the real thing.

I could go into each individual track on this one, the radio samples over static murmurings on track five--the aliatoric slow motion lift-off of six, etc. etc.--but really that sort of defeats the purpose. Each sound on the disc is so full and so rich that it's a listen that requires the round trip. Psychedelically sick and still available from Weirdo, if not from Olson himself.

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