ALBUM REVIEWS: Andrew Elaban – ‘Variegated Tributary’/Claire Rousay – ‘Tuufuhhoowaah’: by turns, handsomely dronesome and fiercely plunderphonic

WHITED SEPULCHRE is one of those loving little curators of out-musics that play nuanced and important roles in our lives: their guiding light is that these creations are out there, finding the ears of those who are receptive, who will swoon, who’ll gather little aural treasures to their chests.

The label has been operating out of Cincinnati, Ohio, since 2016, putting out limited runs of little nuggets such as Chicago’s Forest Management, hometown hardcore outfit Hissing Tiles, the inhaling, exhaling, guitar drone majesty of Kyle Bobby Dunn.

This month the label is stepping forward with a schedule of four one-sided LPs in hugely desirable and limited pressings. Three of the four come marching out into your consciousness today.

The first is two tracks by Cincinnati resident Andrew Elaban, who is deeply involved in a very texturised and incredibly lovely sphere of the drone world. His LP contains two compositions, “Variegated Tributary” and “Woven Crescent”. The thing to seize upon in those titles is the textural adjectives; for although deep into the world of drone, there’s an awful lot of layering, of patination, herein. 

He’s not content to do ambient-by-numbers when there’s so, so much to be heard; there’s deep washes, teetering on the edge of distortion a la Tim Hecker, dazzlingly bright; stuttering crackle, melodic figures buried in the density, never allowed to escape from their service to the whole. Single notes pick out a melody and are themselves half-subsumed. There’s rounded filtering which at times suggests a flow through a tunnel.

For a brace of pieces with no actual dedicated percussive assignment, there’s also a hell of a lot of movement and propulsion in here. You can’t hear the rhythm but boy, are you aware of the onward flow. That’s quite some trick to pull off. 

Andrew says of “Woven Crescent”, and reveals a little of the alchemy behind the curtain: “I wrote most of this piece during the tail end of summer. I had just gotten engaged and spent the summer settling into a new house. 

“Thinking back, this time was filled with new horizons and I was really focused on working within the modular environment. Almost all events were controlled in some form by the push and pull of a breath controller. At first I thought of this work as an attempt toward studying structure, but I now realize it has more to do with a mix of both structure and more organic gestures. 

“In ‘Woven Crescent’ I like to think there are layers that dive between each other. Under, over, through, and always with blurred edges, like ripples from the end of a canoe paddle.”

It isn’t the longest set you’ll find in a field which tends towards the ultra-longform; but never mind the width, feel the quality. It’s really very, very exhilarating. And when you find out he’s shared a stage with exploratory ambient legend Laraaji, it all makes sense. Whited Sepulchre tell us he plays some beautiful sets; once the live scene returns you Ohioans are such very lucky people. 8/10

Also out on August 14th via Whited Sepulchre is a debut set for the label by Claire Rousay, who describes herself in the simplest of terms as “a person who performs and records”.

Living in San Antonio, her recordings and performances she says “explore queerness, human relationships, and self-perception through the use of physical objects and their potential sounds”.

Her two-tracker for the label, “Tuufuhhoowaah”/ “Bday Shots” is right out there surfing the outer waves of musical deconstruction: she uses that fifth limb of 21st-century society, the smartphone, in order to construct deeply eerie and sometimes sonically discomfiting vignettes and commentaries.

“Tuufuhhoowaah” plays in on a high electronic tone, set at an eye-widening pitch; there’s clicks and electronic chatter, the sort you get when your speakers are on and your phone dit-dit-dits back to base station. Plundered found voices reveal mysterious half-stories. The bips and themes of phone alerts scatter. There’s little primitivist swoops and exhalations, sniffs; there’s a real human in there somewhere.

“Bday Shots” brings in captured (stolen?) conversations. There’s street atmospheres, more longform conversational threads. It pulses down to the eerie cadence of a voice assistant, an Alexa, one of the semi-human new devices we by turns welcome and despise for their supposed faux-humanity.

It’s a helluva journey, it really is; it’s random, eerie, it doesn’t wholly reveal its true intent. Like other artists working at the very edge of the sonic palette such as Ryoji Ikeda and Frank Bretschneider, expect your response to be complex. 7/10.

Both the Andrew Elaban and the Claire Rousay albums are available to purchase in highly limited vinyl runs from this Friday, August 14th at the Whited Sepulchre shop, here.

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