Pillowdiver: Elliott, Lou & Bill
Twisted Tree Line

Two People In A Room: Two People In A Room
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Two People In A Room's self-titled album is the fifty-minute follow-up to Wrapped in Plastic, which the Berlin-based duo Michelle Hughes and René Margraff (aka Pillowdiver) issued on cassette on their own A Crash At Every Speed imprint in late 2010. Having formed Two People In A Room in September 2009, the two soundsculptors conjure a particular kind of guitar-based magic using various effects and treatments. One of the things that separates the group's material from others is that it's not solely ambient-drone in nature; instead, Hughes and Margraff thread melodic elements into the music's dense fabric. In addition, they don't manipulate the guitar to such a degree that it loses its fundamental character, and consequently strums, picking, and tremolo effects are audible during the album's five settings. Such qualities help their music retain a natural quality and remain engaging despite the fact that each of the album's pieces is about ten minutes in length. “Side By Side” sets sail as a shimmering, steel-eyed drone before a gothic melodic figure, accompanied by bass tones, arises, while the ethereal shadings and strums with which the dramatic set-piece “Holiday On Air Force One” begins gradually build into a tsunami of shoegaze-like intensity and scabrous detail. A twanging guitar melody repeats throughout “Crash Your Plane, Walk Away,” which otherwise swells into a beautiful swarm that grows to a near impenetrable density as it develops, and much the same could be said for the closer, “Trying To Meet You,” in its coupling of a lonely guitar motif with a massive, sustained roar. At certain moments, Hughes and Margraff shape their collective sound into something almost symphonic, as when “Shooting Blankets” morphs from a plodding drone into a chiming phalanx of blinding six-strings. One can do little but bask in the music's sonic splendour when confronted with music of such force.

Elliott, Lou & Bill, Margraff's Pillowdiver sequel to his mid-2009 12k collection, Sleeping Pills, is interesting on not just sonic but on production and conceptual grounds, too. Intended as an homage to the ‘90s, Margraff fashioned the EP's three pieces by micro-sampling, processing, and re-processing songs by Elliott Smith (“Roman Candle”), Lou Barlow (“Spoiled by Sebadoh”), and Bill Callahan (“Bathysphere by Smog”). Of course, nothing remotely recognizable remains of the songs once Margaff's done with them, especially when the tracks are wholly computer-based and eschew conventional instrumentation. “Elliott” determinedly hums at a singular pitch while also fending off a seething hailstorm of shards and squalls powerful enough to decimate even the strongest physical entity. “Lou” grows into an immense vortex of swirling blur that's awesome in size and intensity, while the closing piece “Bill” initially brings the intensity level down a notch or two, though it also gradually builds into a huge, rippling mass over the course of its six minutes. The listener is almost overpowered by the EP's material (though not unpleasantly so), which expands to such gargantuan degrees it's like a single cloud completely filling the sky. (In addition to being available as a Twisted Tree Line release, the material can also be obtained directly from Pillowdiver at his Bandcamp page.)

November 2011