Title: Queen of Spins
Artist: Cagey House
Release Date: 2014 July 23
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Label: HAZE Netlabel
Cagey House is an old-hand in the netlabel scene. The earliest release I’ve found is all the way back in 2005 on the Nishi netlabel… But, from what I read in the notes on the Nishi release, it sounds like that wasn’t his first release. (The Nishi netlabel was a sub-label of No Type run by Kevin Krebs. How’s that for a deep connection in the netlabel community?) He’s released on Nishi, Bump Foot, Bypass Netlabel and several more labels over the years. Now on his third release for H.A.Z.E. we get to the see who’s (or rather what’s) the queen of Cagey House spins.
Queen of Cagey House Spins
At just over a half an hour long, this release struck two chords with me immediately: one good and one not-so-good. Let’s take the not-so-good first, because it’s kind of important. The first track opens with a voice saying “What chills! What thrills!” followed by another voice going “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh”. The way these voices sequence together is quite creepy and unnerving, to say the least. It didn’t take long for the annoying nature of the voices to make it a challenge for me to make it through the track — and it’s only five minutes and forty-one seconds long. But simple plucked lute line, and odd electronic noises were extremely interesting, so I didn’t want to give up.
And, that, I think was rather the point of putting this track first. The idea of creating vocal collages from samples and using them to frame sampled and looped instrument sequences over the top of them is the primary framework for this release. By putting ‘What Chills What Thrills’ as the first piece on the release, Cagey House is challenging the listener up front. Now for the good chord: making it past this challenge leads to many rewards throughout this work.
The big thing that I am struck by on this recording is the way the vocal collages / loops interact with the instrument and noise sequences and loops. There is a phase shifting at work throughout these pieces. As the parts shift against each other, difference colorations come out in both parts. You might hear a phrase repeated dozens of times, and yet they seem to changed just a bit depending on where they fall in relation to other parts.
This is the kind of auditory illusion first noted by Steve Reich in ‘Come Out’ back in the 1960’s when he played multiple copies of the same tape loop at slightly different speeds. The tapes started in alignment, but then move slowly out of alignment until they reached an apex, then merged slowly back into each other.
But this isn’t quite the same kind of illusion these samples / loops do not appear to change speeds. Rather it is the variation in length between them that determines how their relationships change as the repeat over and over.
The tracks ‘The Shape of Our Galaxy’ and ‘Crypto II’, and ‘I Ask for Your-Blessing’ are really standout tracks on this release. But all the tracks actually do reveal interesting aspects to our perceptions of sounds in relationship to each other.
This is a release that isn’t for everyone. It does, however, have an audience. It is definitely a work that will appeal to people who like Steve Reich, The Fucked Up Beat, and the experimental self-releases by Sonic Youth. Personally I think that should be all music listeners, however I realize that in reality it is a subset of the music listening populace.
Of course, if you have tried to get into some more experimental types of music, this one is definitely a good place to start. It is accessible, and yet has an other-worldly quality to it that is found in many of the best experimental pieces released either commercially or privately.