Cassette HMS 045

Vital Weekly

December 2017

I turned my attention to the lovely gentlemen Howard Stelzer and Brendan Murray. The latter is a name we rarely see in Vital Weekly anymore; not that he was ever the most active composer, but when he does stuff I am all ears. I believe he is one of the best drone-meisters I know, working with digital means but sounding lovely warm. Just recently I played his entire back catalogue in a single Sunday, reading a book, being totally immersed with his drone music from a broader spectrum, i.e. not always carefully quiet. Stelzer works with cassettes and he is much more active when it comes to releasing music. They both know each other from the Boston experimental scene and working together is something they did before, but by now it has been some time (and it raises the question: why is Murray so quiet these days?). This is just the album that I expect it to be (and come to think of it: is that good or bad?) as it ticks all the right boxes. Stelzer has his grainy cassette sounds, half eaten way, almost erased magnetic tape, faint clicks and pops and whatever crazy methods he has when playing these cassettes versus Murray’s long formed drone sounds, obscured yet powerful. It sounds like machine hum, but somewhere along the line the machine shows there is something wrong. It bursts and it cracks in this universe and that’s the sound I love; it’s the sound of high end versus low end, the pristine quality of a laptop versus the decay of the tape. It is indeed the thing I expected and I’m happy with that. Are you shocked if I say this is an excellent tape? Well, maybe you are neither shocked nor surprised, but I am very happy with these four pieces of exactly the kind of noise I love. This is the kind of music that is both brutal and delicate and often at the same time. - Frans De Waard