[Review: Loud & Sad, ‘False Intimacy’]

The liner notes found within Loud & Sad’s handmade, silk screened, numbered matchbox case cassette False Intimacy list the five slow unspooling sonic sketches as “Example 1-5.” Apparently, these aptly titled “examples” are nothing more than solo pieces of processed piano, which the liner notes seem to imply were created with only the use of the black keys. You probably wouldn’t assume as much after listening to False Intimacy, which was recorded by long-time collaborators Joe Hupert (Dust in the Light) and Nathan McLaughlin (the Blanket Fort) and released by the cae-sur-a label out of Rochester. There is a richness of sound here despite the minimal tones that the duo make use of. But the point being made seems to be that less is more. This stands in very stark contrast to the many noise/sound artists that self-consciously fill up space with unnecessary knob twiddling. Here, instead, patience is demonstrated with an austere reserve that seems determined to let sounds exist and morph through evolution, as opposed to intervention.

At times, in almost all of the pieces, there is a sense that the machines or software or whatever is creating or manipulating these sounds are just left on to breathe in and out of sync with one another, like two people lying asleep next to one another.

There is a particularly daring passage that comes at the midway point of Side A that lasts roughly five minutes (I believe its “Example 2,” but is hard to discern exactly when one track begins and one ends). Anyway, this passage consists of little more than a rhythmic buzzing sound that flickers along in the background. Eventually–and I mean eventually–a distant filtered noise begins to gently chip at the top of the audio panorama. A little clicking here, a little tape hiss there, and what you get is the sonic sweep of a desolate landscape cloaked in a nuclear winter. The piano motif is gone, while any tones or notes are also expelled. After multiple listens, this passage begins to stand out not as the barest, but as the starkest. It’s almost as ballsy as John Cage sitting at a piano doing nothing. Here the duo retreat from their instruments and simply leave them be, letting (or perhaps forcing) the listener to really sit with these sounds. It really is a compelling section for its starkness and refusal to compromise by adding even the simplest of flourishes that might hint to the listener that this seemingly static scene is in fact a movement that is slowly unfolding to something grander. No, instead the listener is given no other option but to take it as it is and deal with it.

Moving to Side B, both “Example 4” and “Example 5” contain stunning piano moments that sound as if they are reverberating while covered in analog dust (imagery reminiscent of the title of Hupert’s solo project, Dust in the Light). It is here, especially in “Example 5,”that the loneliness trope –discussed in the liner notes and explored in a more amelodic manner on Side A—really comes to the forefront.

Then for a moment, right toward the end of the cassette, the piano playing emerges uninhibited by processing and it dances gracefully as if it were the score to melancholy documentary compiled of lost footage from film’s most glorious era. The cassette then ends on a somber, but resolute note.

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Review by Taylor Waite


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