An extension of the “Angry Eelectric Finger” trilogy of collaborative albums with Jim O’Rourke, irr.app. (ext.) and Cyclobe, this set presents much related material that either feed into or was drawn from that project. Originally, “Zero Mix”, which is the first CD in this set, was presented as a limited edition picture disc available only to those who pre-ordered all three collaborative LPs way back around 2004. “Zero Mix” was probably seen as auxiliary as it was the source material which the three other acts worked with for their individual albums. As such it is a little spare, but certainly does not come off as a backing track. Quite the contrary, it bears resemblance to some of NWW’s more reserved finished releases of recent years. Created by the duo of Colin Potter and Steven Stapleton, the disc begins with a soft repeating deep chord, possibly the very low end of a piano, over which what sounds like a bicycle provides short cranks overhead, perhaps in reference to Jacques Berrocal’s “Rock’n’Roll Station”, which NWW covered some years back. The three tracks are untitled however giving very little to reference like so many of Steve’s titles. The opening piece does gradually become thicker with the addition of more creakiness, little tones, and what sounds like it may be extended horns in the bass range before becoming more active at the end. The second track is more active featuring more noisy sources and a warping of the sound similar to hand scrabbling tape, although probably accomplished digitally, yet retaining the low end pulse at the bottom. By the end of the disc, the sound field is enriched by flute and saxophone, which although uncredited on the thick CD sleeve itself, are revealed at the back of the book to be provided by Hansi Fischer and the late Tim Belbe, both of the legendary German jazz-rock Xhol, who lend an open jazz feel in the midst of more experimental territory. Somewhere hidden in the swirl of sounds is also a guest appearance by David Tibet, although at what point in the disc, I cannot tell.
The second disc, “Requital for Lady Day”, seems to be an extension of the first disc’s direction, and does give Belbe and Fischer credit for the title track, which gives very little outward appearance of any connection with Billie Holiday [that said I seem to remember Steve wearing a Billie Holiday t-shirt pretty much every day of his first visit to San Francisco]. Again the tracks here are low key like the overall feel of the first disc and pair with it well. “Requital” has the flute sounding very languorous in its long and soft tones. The second track’s title, “Ocean [for ‘Saucie’ Redpath], gives more focus to the slowly undulating sounds which move like waves throughout the entire set. Both albums come in very thick miniature LP sleeves which are sturdy enough to make extracting the actual discs a little difficult.
Accompanying the CDs is thick, 220-page, hardcover book that is slightly larger than CD size at about five and a quarter inches square. As I mention above, this is yet another extension of the “Angry Eelectric Finger” trilogy of albums. One to each spread are 100 riotously colorful artworks that were painted directly onto salvaged junk LPs made for an exhibit in Ireland. A significant number of the images are bisected by a elaborations on a squiggly line, often in a horizontal, but sometimes in a vertical, orientation. Another common, but less prevalent, theme is the use of a traced hand, frequently with an eye in the palm. Of course following the obsessional pattern of Babs Santini artworks in general, there are several cases of abstracted genitals as well. The book is finely printed, in Hong Kong no less, on glossy stock which helps retain the eye popping quality of the colors used. I might also add that the dust jacket, which reproduces small images of the artworks used for the four original LP / CD releases (the fourth being “Zero Mix” itself) on the inside flaps, hides underneath it a nice embossed cover. Text throughout is little, although each circular artwork has a title written on its inside edge. That only suggests a preference for internally and directly reacting to the art and music without the mediation of verbal framework.
From what I can follow, the “Zero Mix” CD and the “Images / Zero Mix” book are both produced in editions of 1500 copies. Like many releases on Beta-lactam Ring Records, there is a more deluxe sub-edition with extra music, which the current review focuses on. The additional material here is the “Requital for Lady Day” CD, a CD sized insert signed by Steven Stapleton, and an oblong, cloth bound, two part box. This special boxed edition is stated as being in an edition of 400 copies, although it is not numbered anywhere on my copy. The box itself is a bit awkward measuring approximately 14.5″ by 7.5″ by 1.5″ with a hard foam insert to hold the discs and book in place. Kind of an obnoxious size for storing with other audio releases. In contrast to the colorful contents, the box itself is only marked by the artist name and release title embosses on the lid with no ink, or at least a dark black.
Beta-lactam Ring Records – mt103/mt201/mt202