The appearance of the boutique tape is one that I admit to being a bit surprised by. I have no great sentimentality for the format, having spent a sizeable portion of my adolescence trying to spool the little bleeders back together with the stubby end of a pencil after they had unwound all over the place. They were popular for a number of reasons, but I don’t remember ‘because they’re great’ being one of them unless you’re a fan of the punk rock ‘biting the hand that feeds’ styling of one of them wonking off inside a car stereo and knackering the damn thing. I wasn’t. But even I can see that in this time of music as an increasingly disposable commodity, there is space for something a bit different, something that’s neither vinyl’s grand statement nor digital’s instant hit.
It’s not particularly the format which matters but what you do with it. We’ve seen ultra limited tape only albums, a resurgence in old school mix tape, and all manner of one-offs appearing and disappearing over the last few years. Italian label and on-line magazine Electronique.it’s new venture is to ask various producers to go through their archives and unearth unfinished tracks and old recordings that have disappeared below the strata of newer material. It’s an interesting idea, although not without dangers. We are talking about tracks that have languished under the strata of completed work, after all, and the suspicion is always there that they were languishing for a reason.
In Polysick’s case that isn’t really much of a problem, and the hour of music he has put together from his archives carries a weight and punch that largely moves the project beyond simply being an academic curiosity. That isn’t to say that it sidesteps any rougher edges completely. Some of the tracks still feel little more than sketches in frequency, skeletons awaiting flesh. Other portions are closer to being little explorations of sound, pleasing but lacking any ulterior motive.
This rawness lingers more in the construction, though, and the actual musical ideas are out in force. Polysick rolls between rubbery electro, moody acid and a warm take on IDM, making camp on the common ground between them all. Perhaps fittingly given the nature of the project there is an old school vibe present in many of the tracks on offer. There are occasional touches of Anthony Rother at his atmospheric best, and to The Black Dog’s xeno-mechanical braindance. Elsewhere, such as on Unfin0025 at the end of the first side, where things erupt into a stomping slice of trancey, old school acid techno, we get glimpses into the producer’s taste and loves.
The A side tends to the more focused, and perhaps because of this many of the tunes have a fullness and sense of purpose which has them ready for action. Opener, 131lasr, runs tightest, fusing a skittish break beat and killer groove that gathers the intensity inwards as it ages, using it to fuel the tune’s frosty emotions. Track22acd flows out some deep, journeying acid before it collapses into itself with some odd speed manipulation.
The B side lacks a bit of the A sides coherence, but broadens out over a wider spectrum of moods and style, especially towards the end where it breaks into cascading synths and a final turn of deep, elegant electronica from Gummybear’s, loose and beautifully alien funk. While some of the B side can feel a little bit self-conscious, a touch meandering, it’s probably the stronger of the two music-wise, and delivers plenty more evidence of Polysick’s musical travels. With the producer in possession of another two tapes worth of material who knows where those travels will take us. An interesting project, this one, and one that’s improved by some quality music, full of life and ideas, tempered with a touch of roughness