Ten Questions with Nicolay

Apricot Rail
Darcy James Argue
Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi
Félicia Atkinson
Atom TM
Black Jazz Consortium
Borghi and Teager
Kate Carr
Jace Clayton
Nicholas Cords
Cosmin TRG
Benjamin Damage
T. Dimuzio / Voice of Eye
Field Rotation
Stefan Goldmann
Good Luck Mr. Gorsky
Darren Harper
Chihei Hatakeyama
Jerusalem In My Heart
Marsen Jules
Philippe Lamy
Mary Lattimore
Linear Bells
Jay-Dea López
Andrew McPherson
Markus Mehr
Fabio Orsi & pimmon
Simian Mobile Disco
Colin Stetson
The Third Man
Simon Whetham

Compilations / Mixes
Art Department
Balance presents jozif
+FE Music: The Reworks
Ruede Hagelstein
Inscriptions Vol. 2
Rebel Rave 3
Your Victorian Breasts

EPs / Cassettes / Singles
Broken Chip
City of Satellites
Yann Novak
Simon Whetham

VA: Inscriptions Vol. 2
Sacred Phrases

Many cassette releases are presented in a, shall we say, budget-conscious manner befitting the lo-fi production quality of the format itself. Sacred Phrases' second Inscriptions volume (available in a limited edition of 150) stands out right away for the relative lavishness with which it presents its cassettes, with the two housed within a large format plastic case—about as deluxe a presentation as it gets for the cassette crowd.

None of that would mean a whole lot, of course, if the contents themselves weren't worth getting excited about, but no one need worry on that count. Leading off the seventy-minute cassettes is “Heights” by Quiet Evenings (Georgia couple Grant and Rachel Evans—aka Nova Scotian Arms and Motion Sickness Of Time Travel, respectively), eight minutes of synthetic serenity that naturally sets the bar high for what follows. Grant and Rachel once again show themselves to be expert sound sculptors who have a distinctive talent for shaping shimmering chords and washes into a transfixing whole. Transcendence is also a mere click away when hazy settings by Buchikamashi (“Mujo (Transience)”), Dr. Sean Gadoury (“Siamese Alarm Cat”), and Hakobune (“Sazanami”) are included.

There are twenty-four tracks in total, with a number of familiar names involved, Nite Lite and M. Geddes Gengras among them. In keeping with the trippy, synthesizer-based genre, analogue synthesis is emphasized (though other sounds occasionally surface, too, such as field recordings and percussion in Nite Lite's “Accipiter” and processed guitar elsewhere), and some pieces play like lost tracks from kosmische musik sessions of decades past—one could hear Enumclaw's “Kuxan Suum,” for instance, as a ponderous Kraftwerk meditation recorded in the band's earliest days, long before the song-like structures of Autobahn and Radioactivity imposed themselves. Others feel like audio records of new planetary systems being born (Code: Suite 104's “Traps”) or woozy plunges into the murk of the unconscious (Pierrot Lunaire's “Grinning Mirror”)—in certain cases, both (Gimu's “Light Pillars”). A blustery noise dimension infuses some (the crackling combustion of Middle Kingdom's “Fires in the Sky” and Ophibre's “Lactobacillus” two examples), and the recording's heady content is intimated by contributors' names alone when outfits such as Mohave Triangles and Peyote Cristal take part.

Each piece is its own self-contained universe that at the same time complements the whole, making for a compilation that can be sampled bit by bit or digested as one massive, galaxial whole. In short, anyone with a jones for loopy synthesizer music need look no further than Inscriptions Vol. 2 as it pretty much covers all of the genre-related bases and is inarguably generously stuffed. Calling any release definitive is risky business, but this comprehensive Sacred Phrases set certainly comes close.

April 2013