Michael Esposito/Kevin Drumm - The Icy Echoer
Fragment Factory 7”. FRAG16. Clear Vinyl. 300 copies.
I have this vision that in the distant future you’ll be able to have a file containing every note of music ever recorded surgically implanted straight into your brain. Everything. Everything ever recorded starting with Eddison’s wax cylinders right up to what popped out of itunes five seconds ago shoved on to a chip and stuck into your head at birth. And with regular updates it would be but a small job to connect yourself to a PC and download al the new stuff thats been made available. For a small fee of course. Wouldn’t it make life so much easier? And then just think of a piece of music and it appears in your head. No more need for portable music appliances or storage devices. Think of all that saved space. Devices will be made available for those wanting to share music in social situations of course but for when you’re on your tod all you’ll need is a single thought.
Except that wouldn’t be very good at all would it? Where’s the fun to be had in just thinking of a piece of music and having it pop into your head? What about the bigger picture? The way the artist wanted their work represented? The album sleeve? The inner sleeve? The run off grooves? The subtle messages hidden in reversed record grooves? [Rob Halford would never have had to defend himself from inserting hidden messages onto his records if he’d have released Suicide Solution on an MP3 download only single now would he?]And what about different coloured vinyls? Picture discs? Locked grooves? Double grooves? Clear vinyl? Shaped discs? Interlocking discs? Vinyl so heavy you can actually feel the weight in your hands. Who remembers the albums that came out during the oil crisis in the late 70’s? Albums so thin and flimsy they were almost like flex-discs older brother? Ah yes, flexi discs. What about seven inch singles? Ten inch singles? Five inch singles? Records that play 33rpm on one side and 45 rpm on the other. Records that play from the inside out? Maxi discs. EP’s. Double A-sided singles. Triple LP’s. Gatefold sleeves. Records with more than one centre hole. Juke box singles with the centre punched out. Acetates. Dub plates. 16 inch transcription records. Records made from glue. Records with only a finite life span.Transparent sleeves made to look like bags of sick. The Sergeant Pepper album cover. Anti records designed to destroy your stylus. Duchamp picture discs designed to induce hypnosis. 78’s. 16’s all the lot consigned to the dustbin of history replaced by something the size of a babies little toenail.
Which is why vinyl is still so vitally important. Now more than ever. Its heyday may have gone but in the hearts of people who still love music its still there, a format worth fighting for in a world slowly sinking into a digital sea.
Which brings me to Fragment Factory who have nailed their intentions to the mast with their first foray into vinyl. Let me start by saying that I know little about Kevin Drumm and even less about Michael Esposito. The latter I may be forgiven for but I suppose admitting to not knowing much about KD is a little like admitting you’ve never heard of Captain Beefheart. Well, at least in the circles I move in it is. Esposito is different. Research tells me that he’s involved with Electronic Voice Phenomena - the capture of voices from beyond the grave. For The Icy Echoer they use field recordings taken from a cemetery coupled to EVP files, found sounds and Drumm’s [I assume] prepared guitar. What it all sounds like is five short tracks of rummaging around in a plastic bag sounds and one longer track of rummaging around in a plastic bag sounds. Some tracks have pulses running through them, some don’t. On some you can hear voices and on others you can’t. One track has a slight guitar melody to it over which you can hear crows. If this sounds glib its not meant to. I have listened to this record many times and have still to make my mind up as to whether its an important EVP document or just a straight forward piece of music concrete/field recording composition with a bit of guitar chucked in. I suppose being the worlds biggest sceptic makes me the wrong kind of person to be evaluating a record that has EVP at its core. If there are ghosts out there trying to talk to us they appear to be going out of their way to make it as hard as possible for us to capture their rare utterances. One mans snip of ghostly speak is another mans wind in the trees. Having said all this I did enjoy listening to the groans and the static and the doom laden backgrounds plus its made me curious to further explore the worlds of Drumm and Esposito. Job done. Most importantly of all its a record I shall look forward to reacquainting myself with. And it is a record. A small clear piece of plastic with sounds on it and for that we should all give thanks.