Friday, October 11, 2013

Curt Oren "Is Anyone" on Personal Archives Records

One thing I never realized is that those old 1/4" reel to reel boxes my dad used to have by the dozens on shelves in the basement are the exact size of a vinyl seven inch. Well I'm pretty anyway, at least that's what Personal Archives Records sent me a couple of their latest lathe cut releases in. Very cool idea and I made sure to set this aside to get into the special craziness of a label that would go to these lengths to send me a couple of records.

Curt Oren loves playing the saxophone. That's his pitch on facebook. It has to be pure love to get to this highly improvisational, unique place. Curt is obviously in love with everything about the tones that come out of the instrument, the good and the bad. Like a proud parent it can do no wrong and he's pushed his little prodigy to the limits on these two tracks laid out on this thick clear square.

What I really love is how the surface on A-Side's "Eviscerated" becomes such a part in listening to this piece. Sometimes it clips out the left channel or the higher frequency waves of the high squeals. Other times I play it through and it's mysteriously returned, a completely new stereo divide. Curt plays with a circular breathing style which allows him to continuously produce tones while breathing in or out. Even more amazing is the clustered notes remind me of John Fahey's instrumental fingerpicking where the notes rotate in a cyclical pattern; low to high, back and forth, swirling around delivered at ridiculous speed. Letting loose and precise, just crazy technique at work here. Rolling and swaying like an obscenely huge moth circling an outdoor flood light bulb hanging in the screened in porch. He can't control himself. There's some kind of larger order to the movements but you'll be damned if you can actually figure them out or predict them. It also has to end tragically any minute.

B-Side's "Thought Patterns" is Curt's field recording of the strangling death of a butterfly. Somehow he got down to their level with a tiny mic at the end of their short week of life. This is their swan song. I still like how either thanks to the format or his style this seems to fade in and out of clarity, like weather patterns. That love comes through in the ugly or even dirty breaths squeezed out the tiniest holes as hard as possible, always fluttering or bleating screeching between the two correct positions on the keys. Taking things apart and putting them back together again. An alien sound and a new way to hear this tragically romanticised instrument. Make it punk, a threat, an ugly duckling again.

This single is the black sleeve in the photo above with the white brushmarks and the reverse is even hand painted with the track listings. Sadly the lathe edition sold out, but the digital tracks are available over at Curt's bandcamp page along with some cassette releases, the bastard child of the seven inch format.

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