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For the first time in his storied career, looping community icon Andrew Ostler (Darkroom) actually makes an album consisting of loops.
“If you only buy one album of overdriven contrabass clarinet reel-to-reel tape loops this year, make it this one.” - Milly Manet
“A phenomenally good ambient drone album.” - Electronic Sound
Despite being a member of the live-looping community for many years, despite performing at and indeed organising many “loopfests”, despite developing any number of software delays & loopers - despite all this, until this year I had never actually made a tape loop.
This album is the result of my addressing that gap in my experience. Obtaining an old Akai 4000DS Mk-II reel-to-reel recorder from eBay, I set to with a splicing block. The machine came with a few spools of tape, one containing an Abba EP that I didn’t recognise, which became the tape that got chopped up for loops. So each time I recorded new loops for this album, I began the session listening to a looped burst of ‘70s pop, before the tape was wiped. Who knows how this influenced my playing.
After some experimentation I settled on a solution for moving the tape away from the erase head to allow sound-on-sound looping. Then the question was, what to loop? The answer turned out to be contrabass clarinet, through amp simulator and reverb. Almost all the non-synthesiser parts on this record were created with that combination. A few modular synth parts also went through the tape looping process; and the first movement of ‘whispering’ features some tenor sax, not looped at all.
Alongside all this, at the time I was also coming towards the end of the development of a series of analogue synthesiser modules. The tracks here were the final test bed for these, particularly the ‘Lorelei’ VCO, which is why so many of the synth sounds tend towards fairly simple sine tones.
The result? I’ve never been one for message in my music, preferring instead the pure pursuit of beauty - but particularly that special beauty achieved by things that are beautifully ugly. Here, the grunge of the tape, the growl of the contrabass and the contrasting purity of the synths add up to something I find very special.
Dedicated to the memory of Jon Hassell (1937-2021), who passed away just as this album was completed. I had been listening to his “Vernal Equinox” on repeat around that time.
- Andrew Ostler, Edinburgh, October 2021
Andrew Ostler - contrabass clarinet, tenor saxophone, modular synthesizers, tape
Composed, recorded and mixed by Andrew Ostler.
Mastered by Peter Haigh at Pierhouse Studios.
Design by Carl Glover for Aleph Studio.