Vol. 3: Chase Me Before the Plague by The Blue Tapes House BandRelease date: February 10, 2019
Label: Blue Tapes
Noise has shape.
Or: Noise can have shape. In the hall just ahead of you, hidden behind a pillar. Along a side passage, out of the corner of your eye. The darkness, gathering form, behind you.
What we mean to say is: You know those times when you need the inside of your skull cleared out? Scoured out, with steel wool, leaving nothing but the clean skull, shining, bone-coloured bone, ready to accept a freshly steam-washed cerebrum?
You won’t be the same afterwards, of course. But then, you didn’t want to be. If you did, you wouldn’t be here, now, listening to the Blue Tapes House Band.
Vol. 3: Chase Me Before the Plague is not for everyone. Even having said that, well over 90% of you will press play on the album’s single, nearly-57-minute track, cry “ooogh,” in a strangled voice and break your mouse trying to find the pause button. Then you will write to this publication, demanding recompense for your subsequent therapy sessions.
But those of you who are still listening are too busy experiencing just how music can transform to consider therapy. Less than an hour from now, you’ll lean back in your chair, eyes a little unfocused, muttering to yourself. If someone walked by, then, they’d think they heard you say, “Ahhh.” Or “What just happened?” Or “I have no idea where I am right now (but it’s good. It’s good).”
The shape of this particular noise was formed from music originally created by David McNamee (Thank You, Merciless Onlookers; Kellar), deconstructed and tortured and woven by Matt Collins — with spoken word by Eugene S. Robinson (Oxbow) and Lisa Jayne (Map 71) and odds and ends of synth — into an unrecognizable fusion. The result is static-laden yet cinematic. Like a TV theme you can’t quite identify, tones peer out through the fuzz. What can (barely) be discerned of the spoken word lurches from Robinson’s urban observations (“singing some song soft to himself about Coca-Cola…”) to Jayne’s semi-political ones (“a few of us who couldn’t afford to pay our rent watched people defending their right to blood sports”). The voices take turns, ping-ponging between our ears. Collins treats the spoken word as another instrument rather than as a lead. The listener is freed to experience the sound as a textural element rather than struggling for meaning, which serves the surprisingly meditative impact of the first half of the piece.
Around 32 minutes in, harmonic sounds start to grow out of the metallic grey of the noise, interwoven with disturbing industrial noises, resembling nothing so much as a score to a ‘60s science fiction movie. The most constant notes begin to sound like alarms, varied not in themselves but by the backdrop against which they’re placed. Further along, around the 41-minute mark, the sounds turn symphonic, this time made to sound more melodic because of the contrast with all that has come before. The music reaches a fevered urgency around 46 minutes in; alarm bells sound again a few minutes later. In the final minutes, one senses creatures swooping in onto a fully realized dark landscape.
And then it is over. And it is very, very quiet in your room. Too quiet.
You hit rewind.