‘Masculinity is a wonderful thing’ is a dense, sculptural clutter of gauze-thin cut up samples, loops and embellished found sounds. It’s an intense, and incredibly direct listen. Louis Johnstone seems resolutely artless and at the same time all the more an artist for it. He would no doubt hate a sentence like that. I just can’t think of a better way to describe the incredible way his collages make all formal music ideas seem worthless whilst you become lost in his world.
C V L T S are an enigma that keep on giving. The past year has seen them previously release 2 cassettes, a split 7″, a split c-30, a download maxi-single, and create their own label – Beer on the rug. Their newest cassette, ‘Theta Distractions’, is the label’s next release.
C V L T S are an act of contradictions. ‘Theta Distractions’ is a truly transgressive album that is heavily weighted by the crackling, distorting, and whirring of old, beaten up keyboards, tape machines and delay pedals. Tape WoW and flutter roots it in earthly tones and textures, whilst the melodies take you to another ‘place’. The music is moody and unsettling, drawing the listener in, but always retaining a cold, calculated distance. The sense of detachment comes from the production. Harsh sounds are still beautiful and poignant; simple, raw in execution. The seemingly improvised compositions breathe life into something that could make the listener feel like a trapped outsider were it not for the repetitive, haunting, loops, sending shivers through the body, like the clicking of joints; nervous tension shifting into excitation and satisfaction. Yet unlike, say, Steve Reich or Terry Riley, the repetition is nowehere near as minimalist, building more like slow post-rock.
With breathtaking brevity, the sweeping, subtly shifting melodies move the listener from one place to the next. The entry of the track ‘White cluster’ is a real thing of beauty, a melody captured that feels instantly like it could bring you to tears. It is one of the strongest moments on the album which pulls the listener out of the immersive atmosphere. One of CVLTS’ strengths is in their knowingness, coaxing out moments like this, like a witch conjuring a spell. Suddenly, by transforming the mood again into a pulsating outro, they bring the audience back into the flowing atmosphere, via a mini-symphony with no regard for traditional songcraft. This is another moment which sums up what CVLTS achieve so well, doing away with unnecessary rules of song. These are sound collages, tiny soundtracks to ominous events that are happening, that you are frightened of but still want to be witness to, like some kind of voyeurism. To achieve so much within such a simple idea and set of rules is no mean feat. By retaining playfulness and casuality, they still entertain a great depth of emotion and substance. Fragmentary, momentary ideas are just a significant as longer pieces. ‘Pain management’ is another majestic track that lifts you into ecstasy, it’s slow, churning euphoria, still remaining understated and melancholy, but shifting the music into more optimistic territory, something which was rather needed by this point.
A short, 20 minute journey, and it’s over. Where did you travel? In such a short time, it feels like a long way.
I have also included other examples of C V L T S’ work, nearly all of which can be heard at their bandcamp here.
From Austin, Texas Pure X write dark, grimy songs full of lonely reverb and vintage atmosphere. Featuring the improbably-named Austin Youngblood among their line-up they’re due to release their debut album Pleasure on Acephale Records on July 5th, along with it’s beautiful/awful cover art. They’re very keen on recording live onto tape and their amps sound like they’re held together with gaffa tape, so they’re all good with me. You can hear lots more grainy treats over on their Soundcloud.