This is the first installment of one of my purposed monthly mainstay featurettes, dedicated to artistic collaborations respectively within the experimental-fringe genres of esoteric minimalism, tactile drone, ambient, decayed tape fuckery and so on. My initial idea was to link all the albums together through a common artist but now I am slowly visualizing all the inevitable dead-ends and thus making me re-think my approach. I am happy to settle for a degree or two of separation from album to album. With that said, I'll still try to maintain a level of cohesion, linking everything together, even if by dangling loose threads. The Collaborative Network might take yet another varied path in the near future, as things are still very unfixed at this point.
Colin Potter & The Hafler Trio
A Pressed On Sandwich (Nextera, 2006)
I'm drawn to the collaborative process.
It isn't simple to work with other people. A difference of opinion can easily plague the outcome of a work, and when your work primarily orbits around the confines of minimalist sound making, it can mean the difference between a decent record and a brilliant one. What draws me to the collaborative process is not the process itself, but how collaborators derive at a process that works. This can take many forms: on-the-spot improvising, or a back and forth exchange of individually recorded segments, or any degree of implication of the two with the potential left over for post production tinkery, if one so happens to feel it necessary. There is the case of Ben Chasney and Hiroyuki Usui working together as August Born. Working material was constantly being mailed back and forth across the world until the songs just felt complete. There was also the case of Christoph Heemann and Charlemagne Palestine's brilliant Saiten In Flammen LP from last year that actualizes a collaborative process that happened in two distinct parts, Palestine handling the source material, in this case a Bosendorfer Imperial piano, while Heemann later reworking and processing the album, transforming it into a deeply saturated stoic album of muted jackhammer keys and flickering tonalities. The albums mentioned above along with countless others could not have turned out the way they did had the collaborative process been different, changed, or somehow impeded. And thus, the right process is essentially vital to the making of a strong album.
With that long-winded intro out of the way, I can now focus on the two gentlemen responsible for the album at hand, who are in no way strangers to the collaborative process. A Pressed On Sandwich remains a classic in my books, though a lot of the pages are still being filled-in. It is an album that is constantly present in my listening world, not unlike Sumac, which I've mentioned, reviewed, and gushed over more then once on this blog. Colin Potter and Andrew McKenzie are both regarded as highly skilled sound sculptures and have along the way draped their personas in enigmatic cloaks that still remain completely non-translucent. It was the Hafler Trio performance How to Slice a Loaf of Bread that brought these two together and thus, spawning this wonderful collaboration. Some time after the performance, McKenzie sent Potter the recorded material of ...Loaf of Bread, in which, Potter decided to rework it, pushing it into different sonic areas while still attempting to maintain the original work's overall shape. Might I state that Potter vastly succeeded in his attempt.
A Pressed On Sandwich begins with an icy dampened drone, like a lo-fi recording of the mechanics of a turntable on its last legs-or gears I should say. Static pops peppered throughout the opening moments fill the foreground but then disappear into the glacial expanse. From there, the tones undulate, spin and flicker leaving in their wake dust clouds of high-end feedback and buckling conveyer belt drones. Over an hour the piece is eroded to the smoldering electronic static alluded to at the opening moments but only fully realized during the concluding quarter. Isolating, dark, and oh so good.