Nonhorse - Haraam, Circle of Flame (Release the Bats CD)
Matthias Andersson must be a glutton for punishment, because why else would he send me this new disc from his Release the Bats publishing house? He had to know I'd be talking about it, and no one wants that. But heck, I won't say no. If you don't know Nonhorse - and that's to be expected because this is the maiden Nonhorse voyage - it's the moniker used by Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice member Gabriel Lucas Crane. And if that name doesn't tell you anything, well here's a hint - he's the scruffy one. Ahahaha get it? Because they're all pretty scruffy you see. Anyway the story to "Haraam, Circle of Flame" is that it's apparently composed entirely from from "mysterious old cassette tapes", although I'm not 100% sure exactly what that entails...if Crane is using old recordings he himself made, or found-sound tapes, or some kind of plunderphonic method or what. I can say that there's nary an identifiable sound to be heard here, so don't expect "Night Ripper" for the Luc Ferrari set.
I've played "Haraam" about five or six times through now and I'm just barely beginning to get a grasp of things although it's still a pretty flummoxing album. There's thirteen individual tracks all almost exactly 3:14 in length with something on the insert that looks like a tracklist but is way too jumbled to possibly make any sense out of, so we'll say they're all untitled for simplicity's sake. Every song is like an excerpt of a larger composition, and each one sounds indeed like old, mysterious sounds hitherto unheard by the world at large being welded together, into and on top of eachother. It really is more like a series of sounds more than samples or anything like that, but the choice of sounds is what's most intriguing. I'd hazard a stab that most of what's heard on "Haraam" comes from effect pedals, synthesizers, keyboards and drum machines with the rest being indistinguishable blurs of aural gloop from flea market tapes and badly-damaged archival spools. Snatches of human voices crop up every now and again but disappear too quickly for your ear to hook onto anything and it's anybody's guess where they're coming from or what they're saying. Crane's work on this CD makes me think especially of Spencer Clark's "Un Chand Pyramdelier" CD-R under the Vodka Soap moniker, albeit less drone/ritual hazed and more frequently-shifting moods and sonics. Or maybe like he's mixing together badly-recorded Double Leopards bootlegs with dubs of the Sublime Frequencies catalogue and the more esoteric and wordless jolts from the Sun City Girls and calling it an ode to "Revolution No. 9". What about McCartney and Ringo covering pieces by Philip Jeck? Yeaaah, now we're talking! And then Crane comes along and stomps all over the results with his proverbial personal touch. I think I've got it! Wait...no, I haven't. Which is the curious thing about "Haraam" in that no matter how many times I play it, nothing sticks. This is I guess a blessing and a curse - I'd be hard-pressed to call it a very memorable album but at the same time I want to keep coming back to it because it never gets old. It'd take you an infinite number of plays of each song (let alone the entire album) before the molasses-like stew dribbling out of the speakers begins to make some sense. So, as you can see, I'm just getting started on cracking it. Like a...Kinder Surprise! No, wait! Like Ringo and Marcia Bassett putting together Kinder Surprises while Jeck and the dudes from the Skaters listen to Sublime Frequencies tapes at Luc Ferrari's house with Matthias Andersson and Girl Talk jamming on Paul McCartney's keyboard while...bah, lost my train of thought.
Only thing more perplexing than the CD is the package it comes in. RtB usually do it up to the nines but Nonhorse's disc comes surprisingly dressed-down (well, for them) in a simple cardboard sleeve with a single-sheet insert, albeit it just about everything is covered in insane psych/kindergarten designs from I'm assuming Mr. G.L.C. himself. It is limited to 500 however, but you've got time.