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Gregg Kowalsky

Tape Chants

(Kranky; US: 9 Jun 2009; UK: 8 Jun 2009)

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.


Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.

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