OK, the tag at the top of the page says ‘Ambient’ and the label is Kranky but don’t put Tahoe on expecting to be borne aloft on clouds of ambient fluffiness for an hour. Dedekind Cut’s new album is an altogether tougher prospect – an over-saturated, needles-in-the-red, near industrial ambient record, closer in spirit to work found on Hospital Productions (which has been a previous home to Dedekind Cut releases) than much of Kranky’s output.
Now that’s established, let’s approach the work from a different direction. The cover lists a number of different locations and distances, almost as if they are suggested walks or bike rides to enjoy whilst listening. Now, if I go out into the country it’s generally because I want to experience nature with all five senses so I leave the headphones in the bag and listen to the wind in the trees, the insects in the grass and the birds on the wing – that sort of thing. Tahoe on the other hand provides a listening experience which in parts throws you into a scene from Eraserhead. Indeed, at times it sounded like wires were shaking themselves loose: I had to check the loudspeakers’ wiring when I played it through my hi-fi.
All that, though, follows the blissful opening of “Equity”, which pulls in all the usual suspects of ambient music – a steadily pulsating organ, an ethereal choir, all gently wafted along on a soft summer breeze – to captivating effect; having established that he can do your traditional ambient music, Dedekind Cut goes some way to subvert the genre. The second track “Crossing Guard” starts off as a grey, ghostly hum with the odd glitch for good measure, then midway through the ten-minute duration, an edgier, sharp tone gradually fades in: it’s subtle but gives the track a needling tension in contrast to the opener’s softer quality.
So it continues, with periods of softer ambience giving way to harsher tones and crackles, hums, and – in “MMXIX” – throat singing. It makes for an disorientating experience; several listens in, I’m never quite sure what is going to happen when, but I’ve a pretty good idea that the pleasant choral textures are going to give way to a far more intense, industrial sound within the next few minutes.
It’s a fascinating progression for Fred Welton Warmsley III, who previously recorded as Lee Bannon, producing beats for hip hop albums by the likes of Inspectah Deck and Joey Badass before going off and making this mutated ambient music as Dedekind Cut. I think, at this point, he’s found his calling and Tahoe is one to check out for fans of Oneohtrix Point Never’s work. It isn’t, though, an album to listen to when engaging with nature – you’ll end up cowering behind a rock somewhere. (Jeremy Bye)