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Rrill Bell, "Ballad of the External Life"

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cover imageWith only a handful of releases so far (as Rrill Bell and as The Preterite), the American born, German based composer Jim Campbell and his arsenal of various tape machines, is already doing amazing work.  Layers of processed field recordings, various incidental tapes, and who knows what else come together in these two extremely dynamic and complex compositions that at times seem like completely alien, yet utterly fascinating worlds.

Elevator Bath

Campbell opens "Like Heavy Honey…//Wie Schwerer Honig…" with a mass of stacked erratic electronics; complete with bent (at times melodic) tones and abrupt tape stops and starts.  He balances the denser, heavier segments with calm, peaceful passages of gentle field recordings punctuated with birds and other inviting bits.  There are even some hints of melody, albeit subtle, that seem to be generated from live tape manipulations.  Some of the sections have a ghostly feel via echoing empty spaces, and others resemble submerged, aquatic excursions.  Closing with a bit of menace and bizarre wet echoes and subtle crackles, it never stays in one place too long.

On the other side, "…From the Hollow Comb//…Aus Den Hohlen Waben" begins with a significant amount of open space and heavy reverb.  What obviously sounds like field recordings (though what they are actual recordings of remains a mystery) fill in that space, resulting in a bit more of a foreboding vibe. Campbell generates some synth-like pulses and shimmering, crystalline sounds, but the sense of menace never fully relents.  Towards the end he does an excellent bit of juxtaposition balancing manipulated Morse Code like beeps with crackling analog textures.

Ballad of the External Life has such an amazing sense of depth and complexity that it is hard to fathom that this is his first full length vinyl release.  This is all the more impressive knowing that this is almost exclusively manipulated cassettes and processing.  Jim Campbell’s ability to generate such variations in tone and texture from tape manipulation is rather impressive, and that constant flow from one section to the next without ever really staying in one place too long manages to stay engaging without seeming in any way unfocused.  It is an album I immediately loved, and listening to it more unveiled even more depth and variety.

Samples can be found here.

Last Updated on Monday, 15 February 2021 10:16  


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