Release Date: Jun 9, 2009
Record label: Kranky
It's not too surprising that any release on the Kranky label would begin with a dark, dramatic drone, though some may be surprised that "Invocation" barely lasts a minute long. But it's a good representation of what Gregg Kowalsky's art is like, at once working in familiar areas while exploring twists and turns of his own devising. Growing out of a series of performances and installations that relied on such things as multiple amplified sound sources and specific audience placement, Tape Chants is by default an approximation of those efforts but serves as a taster for his larger work, including other releases sharing a similar name.
The concept behind Gregg Kowalsky's "Tape Chants" performance is simple yet fascinating. Looking to break away from computer-based methods, the Oakland-based composer turned to cassette tapes. After recording various source material (piano, percussion, sinewave oscillators, etc) onto cassettes, Kowalsky would play them on mono tape players around a room and vary the volume levels of each.
Gregg Kowalsky felt that the possibilities with digital compositions were too endless. All those new machines, all those blips and math-y groans were too much. So, for the series of recordings and performances that would become his second album, Tape Chants, he used only analog material. Mainly, he uses a series of swirling tape recorders to create a rich and buzzing atmosphere.
This is the third and definitive recorded version of Gregg Kowalsky’s Tape Chants series. I say "definitive" because it leaves behind the piece’s site-specific orientation – the spectacle of Kowalsky moving around the space he’s performing in, ‘live-mixing’ the pre-recorded instrumental passages by changing the placement of six to 10 cassette recorders – and brings the listeners way inside the rich depths of criss-crossing, reverberating analog tones. The previous two recorded versions (Tape Chants a Million and Tape Chants Arroyo), besides being frustratingly unavailable, seemed more attempts at capturing the live experience of the piece.