Review 4: Library Tapes

Posted on July 29, 2011

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Cats + Trees = excellent cover art (Library Tapes/ Nils Frahm)

Method of choosing: Opened folder, closed eyes and pressed forward arrow while scratching my leg and stopped when the itch did.

Albums available: A Summer Beneath the Trees, Fragment, Hцstluft

Hypothesis:

Well I love libraries, so I really like the band name. And given my aforementioned liking for dramatic flourishes, A Summer appeals to me as well, as does Hцstluft. (What is that intriguing punctuation mark?) Fragment – let’s forget we saw that. So college-rock. I’m already picturing the gold-toned oak panels and ceiling-high shelves with a lovely Sleeping-Beauty-esque moving ladder.

It’s 3 days (edit: I wrote this a while ago!) after the passing of my most beloved author, Diana Wynne Jones, so I will write this meager, pathetic review in her honor.

Library Tapes lends itself remarkably well to fantasy-mongering. I can’t picture a band, instead I picture a story. A Cluedo-inspired tale revolving around a macabre dinner and guests in gussets and big pillow-stuffing hair, sitting around a table laden with glazed whole haunches of boars with apples in their mouths and monkey-eyeball soup (Yup, Indie Jones). The dinner table conversation jumps from brutal sex acts to shameless recounts of political maneuvering. The evening eventually devolves into a Mrs Candywhupple-with-the-Candlestick-in-the-Library-during-coffee-and-jujubes (the partaking of) murder mystery. Oh, please let this be deliciously evil and fantastical!

My prediction seems remarkably prescient. Here's LT, live in Leeds, in... a library?

Actual music:

First track in Summer is called “The Sound of Emptiness Part 1” (perfect!) and features bizarre and mysterious wind instrumentals. The next track, “Pieces of Us Were Left on the Tracks” makes me think of the soundtrack of a gorgeously toned Scandinavian arthouse film. Gentle, deep, moving, lush and painfully beautiful. This would feature a young mute delinquent girl finding life and love in the vast tangled woods beyond her small fishing village. OK, it’s all instrumentals, and all very lovely. The quietness makes me think of Northern Europe. So it’s not so much deliciously evil and fantastical, but every bit as enjoyable. This is music whose subtlety could be destroyed by ambient noise, though. So only for home/ quiet cafe listening.

Fragment ‘s tracks are interestingly named, starting from “Fragment I” through to “Fragment VIII”. Some tracks are richer and more complex than in Summer. As the album progresses, I get filled with melancholy and pensiveness, which are my favourite emotions. This could be my life soundtrack, really. It reminds me of my childhood dream image of sitting alone on the hardwood floor of a large dance studio, looking out of a floor-to-ceiling glass window at the rain, somewhere in Europe. Oh, man.

Hцstluft starts with piano playing against the crackling of radio static. Is that inspired or what? And the song names are all in some Scandinavian language. Ah! I seem to be edging towards rightness in my predictions. (This was the last sentence I typed before I fell into a deep, restful sleep, serenaded by the lullaby of piano and radio static.) What a gorgeous album.

Here’s “Pieces of Us Were Left on the Tracks”. Such inspired name-giving.

Post-post-listen reflection (what they really sound and look like):

I googled Library Tapes and one of the first hits was not wikipedia. I’m impressed. Anyhoodles, they’re Swedish (Yeah!) and consists of 1 (skinny-looking) guy. He had a partner, but he left after the first album.

Proof that piano playing gives you nice arms.

This is what www.last.fm says. “Library Tapes consists of David Wenngren from Gävle, Sweden and is an experimental/ambient band. Per Jardsell was a member of Library Tapes but left after the release of the first album. Later release saw the artist collaborated with Colleen, Erik Skodvin (Deaf Center & Svarte Greiner), Peter Broderick, Danny Norbury and Sylvain Chauveau.

And I found a really fancy-written music review of Hцstluft by Brian Howe on Pitchfork:

Dang, it totally sounds like what I should have written. Choice phrases: “a music that seems surrounded by an ineradicable silence” – Umm. I’m not sure what that means. I’m not sure what this means, too – “Höstluft‘s ghostly themes emerge glittering from clouds of roughhewn texture, cycle tenuously for awhile, and then either peter out abruptly or slip back into the haze.” I would certainly get behind “ghostly”, though. Wenngren does make a rather unreal sound. (In other paragraph the reviewer used the words “spectral” and “ethereal”.) There was also a piece of useful information – “Wenngren stays hard on the damper pedal to attain a consistently lulling, legato purr.” So a damper pedal, according to Wikipedia, is the rightmost pedal on a piano that sustains a note when played and allows it to reverberate. “Legato” refers to notes smoothly played and tied together, also courtesy of Wikipedia. And, “Höstluft‘s raw simplicity is its most enticing aspect, and its densely textural atmospheric effects might afford listeners who usually can’t find purchase in minimal piano music’s glassy surfaces an access point into the genre.” I love this line. I can certainly hear the “densely textural atmospheric effects” – that would be the ingenious layering of piano on “scratchy field recordings”. I don’t completely understand what “minimal piano” is, but I’m guessing that its “glassy surfaces” allude to its bare-bones composition. Brian Howe also refers to the influences of Phillip Glass and John Cage, both of whom, amazingly, I have heard of but never heard. The education of the pop pony needs to go forth.

Conclusion:

Will I listen to this again, and if so, under what circumstances? Yes! Especially when I get that hardwood floor studio.

Will put on music player? No but only because it’s quiet and solo-time music. But so far, this is my favorite of all the reviews. Who’d’ve thought I’d be into “minimal piano”?

Also:

In the words of Liz Lemon: "I want to go to there."

I want to say that I have all kinds of mad love for this photo, which I found on See What You Hear, which itself is an amazingly inspired idea for a website. I’m not quite sure if any other photo could capture the mood of Fragment as perfectly as this one did. Plus, lomo junkie and all that. I just had to be sold.

 

I can’t just leave you with one:

 

Oh, the titles, the titles.

Posted in: Library Tapes, Review