Barry Lynn: Taurus Tapes
Touch Sensitive Records

Taurus Tapes presents a two-volume collection of live, electric guitar-generated looping experiments and sketches from Barry Lynn, who's released music under the Boxcutter and The Host aliases on labels such as Hotflush and Planet Mu. There's a relaxed informality to the twenty-five pieces that makes cassette feel like the natural format, even if the material would satisfy just as much had it been issued on vinyl or CD. Whether accurate or not, the impression quickly forms that Lynn gave his imagination free rein during the production process and in so doing allowed the material to dictate the direction it would take rather than having one imposed upon it. Helping to unify the release beyond the guitar focus are track titles that reference stars in the constellation of Taurus, Lynn's star sign; those commonalities aside, nothing restricts one piece from exploring a totally different zone from another.

In some cases, Lynn picks up where Robert Fripp (Frippertronics in particular), Manuel Gottsching, and David Torn left off to give his own spin on what can be done with a solo guitar (slightly augmented with effects and a few other instruments, admittedly). At the start of volume one, “Alcyone” situates us firmly in No Pussyfooting territory with e-bow-styled textures hovering serenely above an hypnotically repeating base, after which Lynn adds gleaming synthesizer swirls and field-recorded birdsong to the deep psychedelic meditation “Zeta Tauri” and in so doing ups the dazzle quotient considerably. Fretless bass guitar works its way into the recording on “Nu Tauri,” which sees Lynn weaving multiple guitar-and-bass patterns into an intricate mass that can't help but call Gottsching and his influential E2-E4 to mind; in like manner, the looping bass and guitar patterns that form a spidery web in “36 Tauri” invite comparison to Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint.

If anything, volume two pursues the bolder experimental path of the two, with Lynn holding little back as he ventures into the upper stratosphere, never more boldly than during the nine-minute “Pleiades.” An aggressive attack also separates “Ruby Star” and “Kappa Tauri” from the collection's gentler meditations, in large part due to harsher lead playing. A number of part two's pieces are in the one- to two-minute range, which strengthens their sketch-like character. Yet while the cassettes' pieces might be real-time experiments, that doesn't mean they're lacking in sophistication or feel unfinished. On the contrary, a setting such as the brooding meditation “RV Tauri” feels both polished and perfectly resolved, especially when the bass accents are integrated so subtly. Weighing in at slightly longer than seventy minutes, Taurus Tapes obviously will have natural appeal for fans of solo electric guitar playing, but its ambient compositional focus ensures that the release should appeal more broadly.

May 2017