It’s always interesting, but occasionally embarrassing, to look back at our younger selves. Many things change– priorities, interests, our aesthetics; but checking on these can reveal a previously-unknown arc of our existence. Suddenly, the point of our present becomes a line joining moments over time.
It’s especially fun to do with musicians. When I got the chance to check out “Amber,” a 15-year-old tape recording that had been languishing in Andrew Chadwick/Ironing’s personal holdings, I was rather excited. The tape, recorded to boombox “in the wee hours of the morning” with Jim Tramontana, is a series of remarkable pieces both for their forward-looking sense of improvisation and the relatively low-tech means employed for the production. “Paul’s Very Exhausted Horse” for instance; features a variety of small electric guitar noises, a cracking patch cord, and every extended technique these two could muster for wringing sounds from both. I’m still wondering how the little hoofbeat rhythm was made!
There is a bit of repetition on this disc. “Morphogenesis” carries on for nearly 20 minutes, and for such a large piece, does a fair job of keeping it together. Laborious amp groaning and some electrical grounding problems present a pleasant ambience for Chadwick and Tramontana to nestle water and cow sounds within. An unexpected snippet of “The Star-Spangled Banner” drops in, something of the Ironing works I’m more familiar with. “Threads” starts in much the same manner, but doesn’t seem to find its footing as well as the previous track. After what may have been a short pause to re-group, the duo manage a little five-minute spell of something like the ryūteki in Japanese gagaku. Entrancing stuff, demanding of your attention.
As with all Hymns releases, “Amber” is attractively packaged in a heavyweight paper slip with insert. For this disc, however, Chadwick has gone to considerable trouble distressing the paper inserts with outdoor contaminents naturally stuck to the backside– now sandwiched between the paper and a prom photo (or something of the kind, anyway they’re all unique)– and finally, laminated for posterity. Fun stuff, this.
Husht’s “Amber” is available now through Hymns.