Elevator Bath Presents | An Evocation of Anatomies

With today’s near world-wide ubiquity of the internet, the possibilities for musical collaboration are far greater than they used to be. These days, artists living thousands of miles apart can produce something together, usually by some form of digital file transfer–or, if you’re old school, I guess you could mail tapes back and forth. There is, however, something to be said about the virtues of face-to-face collaboration.

EEAOA043_JACKETColin Andrew Sheffield & James Eck Rippie – Essential Anatomies
(Elevator Bath, 2017)

When like-minded musicians gather in the same room and play together, there is a magic that can happen, a gelling of vision and sound that can only really materialize from this kind of setting. Colin Andrew Sheffield and James Eck Rippie seem to understand this concept well. After beginning their musical partnership in Dallas, Texas, Sheffield soon moved across the country–over 2,000 miles–to Seattle, Washington. The move put the duo’s work on ice, but since Sheffield’s return to Texas years later, the two artists found themselves working together again.

Essential Anatomies is the product of the duo’s return to the collaborative stage. At over an hour and a half, the album sees the pair recontextuatizing “commercially available recordings.” What these recordings were to begin with is beyond me, as the audio is manipulated and deconstructed heavily from its original form. The presence of Rippie’s turntable lends the work an occasional likeness to GUM–an improv duo from the late 80s that operated in similar bare-bones plunderphonic–though him and Sheffield pare things back even further, lending credence to the album’s title.

By way of furtive pockets of noise and dark abstractions of previously recorded songs, Sheffield and Rippie create a flowing musical dialogue that reimagines turntablism in subtler ways. Essential Anatomies relies heavily on atmospherics over concrete forms, though recognizable timbres from familiar instruments do occasionally rise to the mix’s surface, like the horns that grace the album’s pensive closing track, or the piano that crops up all throughout track 2. And although these two artists forego anything resembling a traditional narrative, I do get a sense of an underlying intention at the music’s core, a likely byproduct of an inherent understanding of balance and pacing. There’s not much worse than experimental music that shows little intent and goes nowhere. Essential Anatomies certainly avoids such pitfalls.

Originally, the album was released in the form of two limited run tapes, which are now out of print. Scrutinized under the scope of four tracks played in succession as opposed to just two, the duo’s skillful restraint and consistent sound reveal themselves a little more. With this said, it’s a pleasure to have all four tracks available again as a single release, and on vinyl, nonetheless. As always, excellent work by way of Elevator Bath.

Elevator Bath Presents | Missives From Foreign Lands

Closing in on two decades now, Jim Haynes has worked scrupulously to mine the deep wells and various crevices of his singular artistic statement: “I rust things.” Impressively, in his pursuit of the ideas embedded in that phrase, new pathways keep presenting themselves, and Haynes is quick to explore them. I can’t help but wonder whether or not the artist himself anticipated the type of yield he’s received from this dedicated pursuit. Who knows? maybe that’s exactly the kind of thinking that would hold him up. Either way, artistically speaking, in a blink it seems Haynes has added up enough small, deliberate steps forward to have traversed a small mountain range; a distance not unscathed by his excavation of the phenomenologically abstruse.

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Jim Haynes – Flammable Materials From Foreign Lands
(Elevator Bath, 2016)

On Flammable Materials From Foreign Lands, Jim Haynes brings the dead back to life. Using primarily short-wave radio receivers, electro-magnetic disturbances were captured within the negative space of dilapidated Soviet-era war structures. The end result is some of the best work I’ve heard from the man, but I can only imagine the type of record he could have produced if his initial vision of picking up disturbances from “weird Soviet power transformers” or “fluctuations from shitty wiring” weren’t thwarted by a lack of electricity throughout the region. Although, as any artist will likely tell you, limitation, deliberate or otherwise, could very well be the key to a project’s success.

Something I’ve come to appreciate about the way Haynes describes his music is that he never shies away from citing his influences, in that listening to an artist’s work he respects seems to help put him into a desired frame of mind for his own music. Just yesterday I noticed in the liner notes for Mount Eerie‘s most recent album (not at all in the same ballpark musically) that both Sun Kil Moon’s Benji and Will Oldham’s Arise Therefore were cited by Phil Elverum as blueprints for its creation; one could say affirmation, really, for channeling the feelings and emotions around the death of a loved one into art.

Haynes cites Robert Ashley’s “Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon” and, not surprisingly, Nurse With Wound’s recontextualizations of similar sounds, as compositional influences on the album. The B side, “Electric Speech: Nadiya” certainly bears a resemblance to Ashley’s piece, not only compositionally, but sonically as well. The Haynes piece’s focus is that of a female voice, fragmented and distorted, uttering indecipherable words from a foreign language. Haynes’ use of silence here only accentuates the listener’s anticipation between the snippets of sound. With a keen ear one can also pick up on some of the artist’s signature sonic devices, like the long wire drones that populated his early work.

The three tracks that make up the A side are more direct, channeling a sound more inline with the current direction of Haynes’ work, gritty and noisy. With any of the man’s albums, however, noise is never without its sonic and emotional relief, and Flammable Materials… too, has much in the way of slow-wielding, haunting minimalism. This, coupled with a now seasoned ear for sonorous expression in the way of all things tactile, rust-laden and decayed, Flammable Materials From Foreign Lands makes for one very, very fine listening experience .

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