After releasing an excursion into solo violin, a “survey of a broken tape recorder” and a business card filled with five minutes of feedback, Troy Schafer returns to the wild experimentalism of his 2012 release, Supreme Happiness Forever. That cassette packed multiple albums of ideas into a single 20-minute cassette; this record pushes it further, condensing 36 hours of music onto a 7″ record. And that’s just Side A!
The format is perfect for this type of release. Given their length, there are two types of 7″ records that one might want to play again and again. The first: the instantly accessible pop hit. The second: something so dense and peculiar that it can only be comprehended through immersion. This is the second type of release. An added bonus is the random coloring of the vinyl; buyers must wait to see the shade they will receive. This facet of the release compounds the mystery of the music, which seems at times like a glass rainbow shattered, then reassembled with new rules.
The mind seeks to find a form in the music, and there is a form, albeit a tricky, convulsive form. The first three timbres are dissonant violin, liquid electronics and even-tempered drone: fire, water and earth. Side A rotates through phases, challenging the listener to draw back and consider the fuller sonic map: an aural version of pressing the minus key on Google Maps. Here are the patterns, the edges, the troughs. The heart of the piece is found toward the end, a stringed cacophony stretching from 4:11 to 4:59. Once one identifies the heart, one can begin to detect the veins. The drones seem like skin, the dissonance like disease. The crunchy minute (2:43-3:42) is the sound of the fragments being swept into a dustbin. After a while, one begins to receive even the swiftest transitions (1:47-1:48-1:49) as miniature parts of an abbreviated symphony.
While Side B tumbles slower, it is no less creative. This time around, Schafer pays tribute to genetic memory and schizophrenia, while keeping the details secret “out of respect for the dead”. One might hear the scrapings as demons in the mind, the squelch as transmissions in the molars. Or one can seek to discern the unbroken thread, a buried remnant of the person prior to illness. The piece is disturbing even without the explanation, but it’s also honest; there’s no happy face to put on such an ailment.
Untitled No. 1 bears the weight of personal testimony and metaphor. By keeping it compact, Schafer increases the power of his witness. The message, however, remains in the ear of the beholder. (Richard Allen)