Tape Cuts Tape

Pagan Recorder

Written by: DR on 18/04/2011 18:10:06

This album has been sitting in my review queue for an ashamedly long time. It is "Pagan Recorder", the debut of Belgium act Tape Cuts Tape. The trio that comprise Tape Cuts Tape are Eric Thielemans (drums), Lynn Cassiers (voice, toys) and Rudy Trouvé (guitars, keys), with all three being credited for adding 'effects'. Part of the reason that it has taken me so long to actually settle down and write a review of it is that it has taken me so long to actually manage to wrap my head around the thing.

"Pagan Recorder" is very much a minimalistic album, and you may have suspected as such from how few instruments they use. Low-key albums like this are, in my experience, incredibly challenging listens. But what of this album? Well, "Kid A" influences are obvious; the idea of laying light vocals on top of looping, subdued instrumentation - hell, "Chosen Profession" has an ambient effect in the background that could have been taken directly from that album! "Pagan Recorder" is more guitar-based than "Kid A" though. TCP 'play music based on improvisation' - Trouvé and Thielemans seem intent on squeezing every last sound out of their respective instruments. This goes someway to making up for the lack of layers in the soundscape as their individual weirdness will keep you intrigued, almost as if to find out what they'll do next. The best example of this is "School", during which there's barely a recurring pattern in the instrumentation of guitars or drums.

You can't help but admire that kind of ambition. There is the other end of the spectrum, however. Take opener "Heavy": fuzzy guitar-distortion comes and goes and comes and then eventually disappears completely, and for three minutes you're treating to a repeated guitar-line and Cassiers' sweeping voice. Two entirely opposite approaches, but both with engrossing results. Closer "Exit" is the epic of the album; it starts off with a quiet chugging and flickering noise in the background, but slowly gathers momentum by, from what I can make out, literally using the sound of a train. The six minutes of runtime float by blithely because of the various electronic textures, so meticulously constructed, that make the song the stand out of the album.

As is so often the case with debut albums - especially ones so ambitious - the experimentation often results in inconsistency. Songs that just don't grab the listener as well as others. The middle of the album in particular underwhelms after a strong opening. "Chosen Profession", despite some nifty effects, is too much for the listener at eight minutes long and that causes a great deal of the steam built up by "Heavy" and "Petrol Blue" to be wasted.

When you try to be so 'out there', there is a very fine line between being boring and being brilliant, but Tape Cuts Tape don't stand sure-footedly in either category, at least not for long. Credit to them for trying to offer something fresh, innovative and interesting, but ultimately it isn't a minimalistic masterpiece quite yet. But, I dare say they have the potential create one.

Download: Exit, Heavy, School
For The Fans of: post-"Kid A" Radiohead, Portishead, Sonic Youth
Listen: Bandcamp

Release Date 21.02.2011

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