Cassette manipulator Say My Name has a deft touch as he mutates the tapes. Known only as ‘The Kid’, Say My Name’s music is rooted in the experimental, with instrumental sampling, sequencing and looping. The unsteady reels scratch at the obscured melodies; with sharp claws they attempt, in vain, to blot out the approaching harmony and the daylight that it brings. Despite the intentional tampering, Malaise Forever is a very musical album.
Say My Name’s sound is unique, made on a primitive multi-track with some tape delay and a loop station. His instruments – violin, keys, guitar, ukulele, drum machine -blur into thin, screeching lines and produce what he calls ‘visionary music concrete’. His instrumental phrases are re-worked and given a new, curious attempt at life. For instance, the opening track is smeared with a trumpet and a violin, but they’re pale ghosts that have left all of their tonality behind. Lost in the lo-fi loop, the distinct, opposing timbres are barely there.
The hands-on approach requires a high level of control, and this counteracts the laissez-faire atmosphere that comes across on playback. Say My Name keeps the music smooth, sophisticated and surprisingly sparse when it could have become a cluttered mess. The rough melody of “Satanta” is almost garbled, occasionally coughing and spluttering as it repeats. The light popping in the background is indicative of the trapped air stuck in the cavity of the cassette. The notes don’t always line up with each other, which produces a weird form of staccato, but this isn’t a negative thing; on the contrary, the strange intervals and the stop-start loop stitches everything together. Like an old Victorian rag doll whose black buttoned eyes need attention, it’s glorious in its imperfect design.
Malaise Forever never gets heavy. “Oklahoma Chrome” is upbeat, strangely euphoric even, and the processed loop is music made out of nothing. The pitch bending is a little too wide to be considered lilting, but it isn’t queasy either; it flows naturally. It rocks to a subtle quake that shakes the sea bed, a slight disturbance picked up by ageing sonar equipment. Say My Name’s sound waves wobble but never jump. Later on, the snapping meter of “Nordberg” trickles with some loose radiation, but the underlying drone calms the nervous noise.
The thin drone of “Get Regular” drapes itself over the tin-toned loop. The machinery is free to run, unattended and yet supervised. Say My Name is content to construct the loops, but he ultimately leaves them to their own devices. Keep an eye out for more of The Kid; you’d do well to remember his name. (James Catchpole)