Tymbal Tapes is a fascinatingly quirky young label that was first brought to our attention in April with a batch of three releases inaugurating the label. The label’s predilection for tape, and album covers that resemble the futuristic woodcarvings of a debilitated mind, were incredibly intriguing and with the second batch of releases officially out, it only warrants further investigation. Like the last series of releases, label-head Scott Scholtz has preferred to put it all out there at once, over-whelming TT’s audience in an immediate unforeseen tidal wave of noise, electronic malfunctions and drones. Like the initial series of releases the works are eclectic, ranging from guitar improvisations to electronic ragas, but what’s at the heart of each release is a healthy dose of experimentation. Tymbal Tapes associates with the Avant Garde of American talent working in fields of Jazz, Noise and even Classical composition, pushing the boundaries of music alongside labels like Köber Lieb, PAN and Stochastic Resonance. If we dip our toes into this latest pool of releases, we’re likely to sample everything from electroacoustics to modular synthesisers, making a detour through guitar drones; music working in the margins to encourage the rich history of the art form lives on, but never stops exploring the boundaries of its possibilities.
These possibilities seem endless in the summer batch of releases from Tymbal Tapes as it ventures between strict compositional protocols and blasé improvisation through four artists, but quite possibly summed up by one release in particular. BBjr’s If you have a door leave it open, approaches the multifaceted identity of the artist from both angles; the hyper-controlled expression of the compositional form of the A-side is juxtaposed by the immediacy of the improvised guitar, quite appropriately highlighted in Don’t be a monkey in my tree. Bob Bucko Jnr (what a great name) presents his unknown vexation in an unruly guitar reprimand that appears to be getting nowhere in the monotonous high-pitched drone that maintains the tonal centre of the composition. The guitar is familiar, and at the same time out of its comfort zone in the context of the singular tone. Where Bucko’s guitar is transposed, Ombrelli Sciolti’s is transmuted through his orchestrations of the instrument. In the chaotic flare of the improviser, Sciolti finds new voices for the guitar and bass through his work, LIMITI DI SCADENZA, executed in erratic temperaments that go from incredibly obnoxious to a kind of docile indifference. Scolti’s music is often violent with remonstration, with a quiet moment of reflection from inside the drone of a bass, never that far away either. The Chicago-based composer makes music in the apathetic style of a deserving megalomaniac. It’s raw if music could ever properly appropriate the word, but Tymbal Tapes is not just about the raw moment from the improvised musician.
Charles Barabé & Wether (Mike Haley) present a counterpoint in the form of Huh? The composed nature of the work, is solidified after a rock & roll like introduction, that moves swiftly into muggy harmonies fronted by instruments like harpsichords, marimba’s and thinly veiled nineties synthesisers. “And they give me a knife, and I took the knife. I stab him in his heart until blood comes out.” Reflecting the quote, the music takes a most dire turn, forging ahead into darker territory through full atmospheres created by pounding moog synthesisers straining, to get out of the diminutive speakers. Huh? is the compositional crest to LIMITI DI SCADENZA’s evocative nadir, and Babel’s Febris lies somewhere in between, sitting at some Nepalese base-camp in all it’s multicultural flare. Built on a foundation of the drone it explores the origins of this aspect of music, through gamelans and raga melodies, creating trance-like atmospheres through the repetitive nature of the music and the distance the elements keep from each other. Drums are inaudible, the reverbs of a guitar make it indistinguishable from a reedy synthesiser, as these parts mutate into one single entity, through the two compositions on the album. Their textures are immersive, offering a calmer, more neutral approach to the Tymbal Tapes’ latest catalogue additions.
If Febris is the introduction to this latest series of releases from Tymbal Tapes, then we’ll have to return to BBjr for the master’s class. If you have a door, leave it open is more than just a title, it’s a recommendation according to the label. TT suggests its to let the sounds flow out to others, but for me the randomised sounds, flowing out, melding together with the music coming in through the portal is the true appeal of the album. The music thus form part of the rich tapestry of sound we encounter everyday. A cat meows somewhere, a saxophone flutters, a jackhammer beats in and out of time, a synthesiser drones in accompaniment to the a helicopter buzzing outside and BBJr underpins it all with Gregorian chants and reedy instruments in crisis, as if to say; “This.. this is what life sounds like.” It’s all very obtrusive, perpetuating the indifference displayed by Ombrelli Sciolti, in a diverse voice. They are quite rightly two peas in a pod on TT, but it’s not a tape label with one particular sound, it’s more about an ideal that lies behind it I find. TT to me is built on an apathetic view on the normative codes of music, a punk ideal in the spirit of good compositional and musical practises.
There’s a devil may care attitude behind the music, but it stems from composers and musicians in full control of their craft. You just have to listen to the second instalment of Huh? to appreciate this. Through expressive noise, Charles Barabé & Wether, create impressive multiple narratives through the development of the composition. At times they are fragments of story, but for the most part these fragments come together to form a disturbing prose gathered from the collage of samples they have procured from everything in modern culture and music’s dense history. If there were ever a song to bring your latest Tymbal Tapes listening experience to an end, this would be it, all 25 minutes of it.