Ever since the birth of René Margraff’s sublime project in 2008, Pillowdiver has been a highly fitting alias, describing the music Margraff etches out quite effectively. His deeply organic, ambient soundcapes are entirely dreamy, thinly vaporous and utterly ethereal in their existence. Sometimes introspective, always approachable, the phantasms of drone which haunt the space within are neither here nor there, circling between the imaginary and the very real; solid yet shifting canyons shining with an ambience deep enough to descend, but light enough to break the surface when air is needed. Cassette Recordings is no different to the high quality of music seen in his past. It is, however, a release which displays a refined approach.
The world inside Cassette Recordings revolves around a Fender Jazzmaster and effects pedals of reverb, delay and distortion, all into a four-track cassette recorder. The pieces are allowed to develop in a way that is always engaging to the listener, opposing the use of any kind of computer interference. It is all a matter of taste, of course, but one cannot help to feel that this analogue embrace lends the music an extra layer of reality, and a cleaner, clearer organic tone. Margraff’s music exists in a soft fragility within a seemingly infinite world; open wide, and yet full of a close intimacy due to the apparent limitations – when compared to digtal – in the analogue recording technique.
Cinematic panoramas cover Pillowdiver’s music. Horizons of sun-lit, arid lands lay broadly over a wide, uninhabited expanse, one of which is as dry as the air created by Margraff’s guitar and unreachable reverb, exploding at times in bursts of powdery echoes, sprinkled over the sands. At the same time, the expanse is so open and the timbre so deep, that the sounds become quite a fertile one to the ears, a plentiful and ever changing environment that is a pleasure to search. Cassette Recordings is also unfussy, laying naturally as if fresh out of the tape. It’s a deserted land, but one full of possibilities waiting to be unearthed by the listener. As content to drift as the smoothest of dreams, René Margraff’s music has the capability to exist in a spacious setting, made all the more admirable in his minimal use of instrumentation.
Dated from the 10th of August 2011 to the 26th of November 2011, Margraff’s tracks on Cassette Recordings aren’t hidden within pretentious titles, and this shines the spotlight firmly on the music. It’s a brave thing to do, as his music is laid bare like the open and truthful cover art, printed on traditional Japanese rice paper, humble and plain. The music on Cassette Recordings is similarly unmasked, in the flesh for all to see. This delicate nudity makes for a special, uncomplicated listen, and it creates a refreshing listen. A swirling pool of thick, breathy drones more than satiates the listener’s appetite. Margraff’s music often emanates from a singular drone where all tributaries can diverge. The active waves continuously undulate, eclipsed in a beautifully serene abyss. It’s a rejuvenating breath of cool air, especially when one takes into account a complete lack of computer processing. This is vital to the sound on Cassette Recordings.
“27th of August 2011″ is as dry, as sticky, as the desert’s droning air, underneath a canyon of reverb. Later on, “6th of November 2011″ echoes throughout the caverns as a thudding bass explodes in the distance. Pillowdiver has created an album that is simplicity in itself in design, sleepy-eyed ambience that is also wide-awake and incredibly active.
The textures and drones always call out to the listener, and once one becomes attracted, it’s enough to call for repeated listens. Lost in the smoke, the slowly constructed guitar is built in a minimal, yet wide open setting. Chinks of light occasionally emerge through, almost halucinatory in a shimmering delay, like heat rising off a sunburnt road. Seasonally dated in their creation they may be, but the pieces inside Cassette Recordings don’t reveal any secrets as to their birth, shying away from the imagery of a scorching summer heatwave, or falling leaves tumbling in delay amid the colourful vibrancy of autumn.
Like a pencil etched hurriedly onto a cassette tape, the modest styling goes hand-in-hand with the analogue recording process and gives the album a life of its own, a truly open sound within its unadorned setting. Enjoyable and accessible for the deepest of listens or a first time droner, Cassette Recordings deserves the attention of the listener, Intangible, deep and always gorgeous, it is proof that a shift always exists in a slow-burn. (James Catchpole)