One of the two most recent releases on caduc.; the other being A Concert For Charles Cross, which you can find a review of here as well.
Coppice’s work has evolved through several variously distinctive eras since the duo’s inception in 2009. Early works, like Holes/Tract focused on defining the sonic and textural building blocks of the instrumentation on hand – namely the bellows and electronics. Later works engaged more complex methodologies in composition and improvisation, with Pied and Epoxy tending to the exclusive and minimal and Big Wad Excisions to the inclusive and elaborate. So where do we find them now?
Upon recently reading an interview with Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer over at Progess Report, I found it curious to encounter a question which compared recent compositions to the rhythmic patterns of Autechre (curious but not surprising, as I too compare everything in life to Confield). Over several previous chance encounters with Noé, we have discussed the duo’s interest in the ability for software to develop from sound production and editing to the interactive curation of sound environments (between which one could find the generative practice (in-)famously engaged by Autechre and Brian Eno, among others). That interest was demonstrated in an analogue format with the Vinculum series, through which the listener was encouraged to join Coppice in the process of composition by accretion, more on which can be found elsewhere on Cut And Run. Such an exercise will soon manifest more explicitly in Soft Crown Transparencies. Such techniques may or may not be on display in this recording, but their influence is evident.
While it would certainly be a mischaracterization to compare Vantage/Cordoned to the chance-based rhythmic patterns of Autechre, there is a strong sense of the organic progression of structural derivation that such a comparison was likely inspired by. This could be attributed as easily to contemporary beat science as to classical canon or fugue. A perfect example can be found partway through ‘Soft Crown’, where the sound of a closing and opening valve is delayed in slowly mutating patterns which fade into pink noise, occasionally jolted by a brief electronic wash at equal volume. Across both pieces we find transitions from the micro- to the macroscopic and back again. Whether these transformations are purely aesthetic or the sound sources themselves are being DSPed to such an extent that these shifts are possible is irrelevant – it makes for delightfully intuitive music. Any given timeline for which a listener is unable to ascertain the precise nature of the sounds playing out is punctuated by bursts of unadulterated acoustics or unabashed analogue or digital detritus – as though carefully hedging the derogation of source and method.
The opening ‘So Lobes Drape As Such Gills Over A Hanger’s Pit’ would be just another (albeit excellent) recording from the sessions used on Big Wad Excisions were it not for the sporadic re-sampling and chronological shifts of sound – occasionally overt enough to be recognized as tape manipulations. The piece borrows extensively from a palette of sounds and structures that invoke the act of beginning; from the literal quotations of starting a tape deck to the slowly rising monotonous heave of the bellows which eventually breaks into tense and suggestive minor-key harmonics. The squiggly innards at its center seem at first almost comic. Their significantly more sedate recapitulation of a sort, midway through ‘Soft Crown’, suggests reconsideration. Here, a similar palette at half-speed is as reminiscent of duck calls as of artificially reinforced squeaking metal, the architecture of which falls somewhere between Barzabal / Charles / Kaplan / Pallandre’s Patagonia and Olivia Block’s Karren. Their slow displacement by a sweeping tonal bed constitutes an incredibly beautiful moment at the heart of a fascinating listen. The closing denouement is as steeped in its timely rhetoric as was the opening passage: the peeling away of effects; the reduction of harmonics; a slowing of tempo; the creak of the chair as the artists relax their poise. None of which constitutes artifice so much as some well-deserved respite in the musical.
I hope that such extensive referral to Coppice’s oeuvre can be excused by the reader. Simply put, there is not a lot of other material to compare it to. While use of phrases like ‘genre-bending’ or ‘hard to classify’ is as wildly common as it is blindingly inappropriate for the vast majority of its contexts, I am often at a comparative and rhetorical loss with this duo’s output. All the more impressive since the approach itself (a variation on instrument + myriad effects) was so prone to abuse for much of the last decade. Whether its approachability is derived from a personal empathy for its textures, or the unashamed use of occasionally overt harmonics, or intriguingly complex relations between acoustic, analogue and digital sounds, there is something unique going on here.
Highly recommended work, available with its startling artwork and obligatory bookmark directly from caduc..