One of the pleasures of watching Montreal’s Florina Cassettes is matching their cover art with the original paintings. The young label’s unified cover aesthetic is particularly appealing as it zeroes in on abstractions ~ even in otherwise straightforward art, as in George Romney’s “Portrait of Sir Robert Gunning” below. A splash of olive, a triptych of ivory, a base of red all seem suited to Arbee‘s gentle flowing music. The image appears to be turning (see the cylindrical bent of the tape’s upper left), and indeed this is the case of original art, now rotated. In like manner, the music twirls around, the cassette unspools, and La place est prise turns its eyes to the past, placing a remastered version of last year’s Précédents on the B side. This is a wise idea, as the EPs share a similar feel and flow.
What would Sir Robert Gunning think of the music? We’re not entirely sure, as the British diplomat is known more for his achievements than for his temperament and interests. And yet, diplomats are known for seeking peace, and the placidity of Arbee’s music might soothe many a savage breast. Add the birdsong of “Certaine urgense,” the closing track of Précédents, and it’s easy to infer an affinity. La place est prise begins in similarly soothing fashion, the crackle of tape drawing a line to the cracking of old paint on canvas. The EP is in no hurry to arrive anywhere, enjoying the moment. “Parer” contains a suggestion of streams, followed by flowing water in the next track. Distant piano hearkens back to Précédents, nudging its way forward in the mix over time. The chimes of “Trop en faire” are like a lullaby, preceding a bout of precipitation. White noise loops as the cassette continues to turn.
Glacial Anatomy‘s Field is a tonal match for its art, repurposed from John Everett Milais’ “St. Martin’s Summer.” While Arbee’s cassette is purely ambient, Field is thick, immersive drone. The pieces run from seven to eleven minutes in length, allowing time for incremental development, as heard in the ironically titled opener “The Path is short.” As the track progresses, the brighter harmonies work their way through the thicket to the fore. When one gazes into the painting, one can imagine how one will feel when one exits the trees and emerges into sunlight; and yet the light exertion is part of the pleasure. “Shadows of Trees” sounds like a suspension of light, dust molecules dangling in the air. The entire album is unfolding like a dream. Again there is crackle, a subtle Florina staple. If the titles tilt toward autumn ~ “October” an extension of a St. Martin’s summer ~ the artist’s name suggests winter. The world turns on its axis, the seasons change, and the tape tumbles round and round. (Richard Allen)