Gateway is the debut release from Montreal’s Frank Ouellette (aka Hobo Cubes) under the Code: Suite 104 moniker and comes to us via Albany’s Tape Drift label. The cassette consists of two tracks, “Time Key” and “Exit,” both of which clock in at about nine minutes; and, besides the incidental similarity in length, these electro-acoustic recordings share just enough in common to be considered of a single piece.
A pulsating and looped patting provides the backdrop for “Time Key.” Moments into the track, a tone, reminiscent of a dial-up modem, is lain overtop providing a theme which is returned to at the end. Other sound fragments add complexity: faint static, throbbing distortion, occasional sustained notes hinting at the emergence of melody that never arrives. Midway through the track, the rhythmic patting gives way to another more insistent tapping pattern. It is difficult to call the rhythms ‘beats’ as they stay in a bass-stripped trebly register, but they do generally point the way forward musically.
“Exit Area” resumes on the low vibrating wave which “Time Key” rides out and pursues the conceptual theme of the melody’s non-emergence: first through tonal repetition, then tonal disfiguration. It is always the background noise, however, that is gradually brought forward (but never fully pronounced), hinting at the artist’s preference for music’s neglected spaces.
Where “Time Key” tapers off into electro-cricketdom, “Exit Area” is transfigured into an interplay of droning and mangled tones. The rhythm all but disappears by the end and the last couple minutes sound like a Peter Brotzmann number arranged for a band of junkyard insects. If the pitches seem too high and the changes too subtle, it’s likely owed to the diminutive nature of their instruments.
The recording never rises too far above the surface, which means you might have to wade a little further into the deep end than you’re accustomed.
Review by Shane Meyer