Thursday, October 22, 2009

Howard Stelzer

Howard Stelzer - Bond Inlets
Intransitive Recordings 030
In 1997 Boston based composer and tape manipulator Howard Stelzer released an album called Stone Blind using little else but old cassette tapes and their players. Unfortunately for us Stelzer was less than happy with the result and rather than release an inferior product he trashed most of the pressing and sat on the masters. For ten years.
Cue the tenth anniversary of his Intransitive label and Stelzer decides its time to revisit those original recordings and take them apart and put them back together again using the passing ten years of accrued tape manipulation knowledge to create, according to the press patter ‘a piece that more accurately reflects what his intentions were then and what his aesthetic is today’.
But Stelzer doesn’t just sit there with his finger on the pause button making squidgy sounds, there’s an obsessive at work here. A curious obsessive creating sounds that one would never in a bazillion years think originated from the humble tape and their players. For these are drone works on a grand scale crafted and filled with the minutiae of busted condenser mics, grimed out ghosts of tape data, wheezing tape spools and fingered reels. There’s huge clanging drones that sound like church bells heard through the fog at Paschandaele, drones that could be the sound of distant traffic coming at you through a long mountain tunnel in Norway. Both these nigh on thirty minute untitled tracks are melancholic drone trip fer sure but they’re ones that have been on repeat here for the past few weeks and I am in awe. Each travel a melancholic path that takes in wheezing tape-deck motors, busted mics, trapped tape, snapped tape, empty players spinning on fast forward, shit I don’t know how he does it but what I do know is that he’s trying to use tape as a tool, as an instrument to create a sound that it wasn’t originally intended to. Tapes can be instruments as much as turntables kiddo, you just have to know what to do with them and Stelzer certainly does.
The last thing I heard by Stelzer was a live track on ‘Tomorrow No One Will Be Safe’ [Pacrec -] a head woozying blast of tape dexterity that swam in and out of my vision like psychedelic goldfish. Bond Inlets shows that there’s more than one string to this mans bow.
PO BOX 39151
MA 02139

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