In one sense, this generous boxed set has been a year in the making; in another, it’s been building for ten. While Erased Tapes is actually 11 this year, 1+1=X is the finale of a long celebration, providing an opportunity to reflect on the label’s past while looking forward to its future. Released on Record Day, it’s also a further example of the continuing strength of vinyl.
Over the course of a year, the label’s current artists were invited to stop by the analog studio to record new songs. Some came in pairs, sparking unusual collaborations. The overall feeling was one of community, providing the set with the feel of an impromptu concert rather than a composed experience. Without the liner notes, the identities are pleasantly smudged.
While early releases from Kyte and Codes in the Clouds put Erased Tapes on the map, the success of Ólafur Arnalds’ Eulogy for Evolution put them over the top. Last year a 10th anniversary edition of that album was released as well. Once Peter Broderick and Nils Frahm joined the stable, a signature sound became associated with the label ~ perhaps a bit unfair as Erased Tapes has never been restricted to a single sound. The wide variety of timbres is another of 1+1+X‘s pleasures. A Winged Victory for the Sullen was a big addition, as close to a household name as one gets in this field. With Stars of the Lid stretching back to 1995, Adam Wiltzie’s presence extends the history of Erased Tapes through its roots. The AWVFTS entry, “Long May It Sustain,” was given the honor of leading off this compilation ~ not the first song, but the first released.
Perhaps the best aspect of this set is its sense of surprise. Some of the most memorable tracks come from less familiar names. Among these is saxophonist Daniel Thorne, now recording under his own name. Better known as the leader of Immix Ensemble, he collaborated with Vessels on Erased Tapes back in 2016. Thorpe’s elegant “Iroise” is one of the album’s early highlights, swiftly followed by Daniel Brandt’s expressive “Blackpool Sands Forever,” which reaches for ever greater heights as it moves along and is later remixed by Rival Consoles. Michael Price does a superlative job with the glissandos of “Eyn Hallow,” while “Pending” reminds us why Ben Lucas Boysen’s Everything (with Sebastian Plano) was our 2017 Album of the Year. Second half highlights include Anne Müller’s expressive, orchestral “Bel Tono” and Högni’ “Máni,” the latter our greatest delight. After years in Hjaltalín, the artist continues to branch out. Previously known more for his vocal talents, here he turns in an instrumental work of solemn, heartrending beauty.
Over the last eleven years, Erased Tapes has succeeded with a slow, careful expansion of its roster and sound. Every step has been sure, making them a trusted name in the industry. We look forward to watching their continued development and wish them every success! (Richard Allen)