[13 July 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Gregg Kowalsky felt that the possibilities with digital compositions were too endless. All those new machines, all those blips and math-y groans were too much. So, for the series of recordings and performances that would become his second album, Tape Chants, he used only analog material. Mainly, he uses a series of swirling tape recorders to create a rich and buzzing atmosphere. Though piano and bass and percussion float around in here, it is the churning of tapes that carry the load. And that organic approach has yielded a sound that heaves with breath like a living thing. Sometimes it is the sound of lying in wait, ready to strike. Other times it sounds exhausted with shouldering the troubles of a heavy world. Though the space of these compositions can occasionally fall into a droning slack, for the most part this record is buzzing with a subtle intensity and full of buried gems for you to pull out as you listen. With something this insistent in its modest drone, there might be penchant to play it low in the background, to let it wash over you quietly. But play this thing loud, let it surround you, and you’ll get the full effect of Kowalsky’s new, singular sound.