I came across the (relatively new) label ((Cave)) Recordings through its ties and artistic overlaps with Housecraft. The label’s most recent release is Devolution Walkabout, by the multi-aliased Scott Johnson, here credited as Permanent Bedhead.
Expecting, as one does from many small American cassette labels, some kind of one-man analogue synthesizer jam-band, the album heads to rather different territory. While keyboards are frequent, their use is generally put to a more restrained effect either blending subtly into fuzzy tonal beds or else remaining minimal and repetitive.
The first track is a good example of the former, and uses its analogue haze to conjure up dial-driven hunts through a poorly received FM radio band. It is unfortunately not a very good, or particularly indicative, example of what to expect from the rest of the album, however. Over the remaining five tracks, the listener is instead delivered a variety of reinterpretations of early academic acousmatic tape and synthesizer experiments: not unlike an outsider take on some of Keith Fullerton Whitman’s homages to the same school.
The second piece begins with looming helicopter-like modulation which slowly breaks into a more harmonic phase only after several minutes. It is a stark departure from the first track and wholly attention-grabbing; even slightly nerve-racking as sounds resembling air-raid sirens pulse to the fore and fade. Intermittent sampling gives the impression of covering some distance across the piece, despite the initial loops continuation.
Closing out the A side is a slow moving arc beginning with a sort of comb-filter effect reminiscent of an electronic version of Bertoia’s installations and ending with rather nice harmonic drones. A brief interlude of bizarre sci-fi sound effects and vocoders playing over-top excellent bubbling and scraping textures, leads back to similar aesthetic ground on the album’s longest and final piece. Slow-moving and perfectly paced chords with intermittent feedback and high-pitched sines manifest a kind of physical sensation of swaying – rather like travelling on a large ship in rough seas.
Despite its rather weak opening, and an aesthetic ground I find myself not often covering, the album is (whether purposefully, or only through my interpretation) an excellent call back to the history of electroacoustic and acousmatic music. Absolutely gorgeous collaged cover art designed by Robert Thurtle (featured throughout the entire ((Cave)) discography) only makes it easier to recommend. Still available directly from ((Cave)) Recordings website.