Late last year, we reviewed Already Dead Tapes’ 100th release, Document. We blinked, and they’re already up to #136! Kontékst is one of the label’s most intriguing releases, an investigation of time and the markings of time.
The cassette is packed with bells, chimes, windings and alarms. The pace is set from the first track, “Clocks”, a clear relative to Lech Nienartowicz’ recently reviewed work on the Pawlacz Perski label. A second hand ticks rhythmically while the other parts of the clock play like disjointed percussion. “Bioshop” offers conversation, cars, the bell above an opening door; a new work day begins, and the air fills with the sound of electronics. The middle of the piece is so busy that no one seems to notice the repeating alarm: a commentary on the ways in which people fill their lives with unnatural sound. As the latter sounds retreat, they reveal a lovely contrast between the organic and the created. This tension continues throughout the tape as these sounds are repeated and looped: high pitches, low hums, phrases morphing into music. The clock reappears in “Dkskdn JSB”, accompanied now by organ tones, offering a hint of the spiritual – or a reminder of spirituality lost. A loop of conversation suggests the dehumanization of factories, the influence of the industrial era.
Before the tone can grow overly oppressive, Kineskop offers an interlude. “La Pilule” offers music boxes, laughing children, a squawking bird and a whispering female narrator: an abstraction that comes across as a dream. Once again, the alarms and sirens sound, this time on the streets. French for “The Pill”, “La Pilule” suggests the dulling of symptoms, but no cure. Two later tracks provide a hint of the eternal: church bells tolling an unnamed hour. In a way, it’s the saddest sound on the album, because its potential power is buried in sonic debris; in another, it’s the most hopeful. These bells have tolled for centuries and will continue to do so, even after time has ended for those who hear them.
The tender, quiet closer, “Moth”, is a perfect coda. Most moths live an average of 2 weeks to 2 months – not a lot of time to make an impact. They fly, they mate, they die, and as this track indicates, they fly into lights – but during that time (unless captured in jars), most of them are free. We too are free, but give ourselves enormous restrictions, especially when it comes to time. We tether ourselves to clocks and calendars, and seldom surrender to anything resembling a natural flow. Kontékst is a reminder that we, too, are limited. It’s an invitation to live fully, while we still can. (Richard Allen)