Saturday, February 02, 2013

In FFFocus: Mazurka Editions

This past year saw a number of artists working in tape-based and loop-based sound design getting some much-deserved recognition. For starters, there was Aaron Dilloway and Jason Lescalleet, who both released arguably their strongest work to date with their respective double albums, Modern Jester and Songs About Nothing, not to mention their collaborative outing on Pan, Grapes & Snakes. Nathan McLaughlin continued to go to the center on his fantastic first solo LP release, The Refrigerator is Emotional, and over several tape and vinyl sides with Loud & Sad and Tilth, and his excellent split with Josh Mason, who also had a fine run of top-notch releases. And then there was Jeffry Astin’s Digital Natives, a project whose 2012 output is worthy of book-length analysis in terms of its sheer volume and methodology. The list could certainly go on . . .

Flying below the radar on the other side of the globe, a new Australian tape label, Mazurka Editions, was also doing their part to document similar-minded sound artists within their home country and abroad. Run by Jarrod Skene out of Newcastle, a town located two hours north of Sydney, which Skene describes as being “fairly quiet, provincial, currently in the throws of a process of gentrification,” but one that he further adds, “has gathered a bit of a reputation over the last decade or so as a closet for noise fanatics.” Newcastle, according to Skene, has been home to various members of the free-noise/improv unit, Castings, and their Spanish Magic label, which has likely contributed to this reputation within underground music circles. Currently, Skene points out, “the excellent Grog Pappy label continues to produce all manner of noise filth documents.”

Since starting to release tapes in mid-2012, Skene has established a consistent visual aesthetic with his Mazurka Editions releases using stark, yet elegantly abstract, black-and-white imagery printed on vellum paper. Like tape & loop-based music itself, there is something striking about the artwork in how it calls to mind blurred memories that are locked-in on a particular moment in time, playing on your perception of what the intended focal point is.

Sure, the majority of Mazurka Editions releases to date have been by artists that utilize tapes and loops in their repertoire to create various improvised and composed sound environments, both dream-like and disorienting. But, that by no means paints a clear, nor entirely accurate picture of what the label appears to be up to. The aggressive outbursts contained on the Teen Ax tape, akin to Wolf Eyes at their peak onslaught mode, alone proves that Skene’s interests are much broader. So far, with the exception of the latest Remnants tape, all of the artists he has worked with have been from Australia. He states that these are, “Artists I admire ploughing distinct paths through sub-genre quagmires.” He goes on to say that, “With Remnants, I'm a fan of both Ryan's solo work and also what he puts out with Imminent Frequencies. So I intend to release work from other overseas-based artists that follow a similar trajectory just as soon as I can.” 

Slated for release in the months ahead are tapes from the likes of Love Chants, Muura, mslmisslemsl, and Pleasure Bros. Skene also plans to get in on the action with his own solo project. “After many years of percolation, I finally have a (solo) project on the go. L.A. County Morgue made its live debut in December, and will have a release on Mazurka Editions sometime this year. Tape processing, loops, contact microphone effects/pedal gaze.”

For more information on Mazurka Editions, check out their website HERE. Also, select titles from the Mazurka catalog are currently available stateside at Tomentosa.

Here are some highlights from the Mazurka Editions catalog:

Mitchell Brennan eminent domain / mill no. 1 c16

Side A features a carefully constructed, multi-layered
synth piece, while on the flip-side Brennan weaves together
a tapestry of creakin’ and cracklin’ looped sounds built upon
the rhythmic churn of a printing press.

Cooper Bowman / Enak split c15

Cooper Bowman has a free-floating, plunderphonics/audio 
hallucination approach to sound composition on his side, dropping 
video game gurgles, snatches of dialogue of former MN governor, 
Jesse Ventura, giving props to Mean Gene back in his pro wrestling 
days, amongst other assorted sonic weirdness. Enak's side contains 
a jumbled mix of what sounds like competing AM radio frequencies 
vying for space in a crammed apartment.

Remnants surface tension c25

Imminent Frequencies label head, Ryan Marino, crafts 
loop-based pieces with the same sort of, yes, tension and 
disorienting force as Aaron Dilloway. A excellent 
tape in every way. 

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