Master Tape by Klaus Marten isn’t an easy listen. The sixteen tracks are snippets of sound that are often dissonant, harsh and not something you will be playing at your next social gathering. What Marten is doing isn't anything new. Sound artists in Portland, Chicago, San Francisco and many places in between gather to express some variation of noise that blurs the line between art, music and the hum that is buzzing from the refrigerator.
Master Tape opens up with “Liftoff,” which gosh darn it sounds like a bit of a liftoff. Marten combines white noise and an ascending sine wave, which increases in pitch every so often. “Aux Return” sounds like remnants of cyber trash collecting on some god-forsaken landfill. Soupy water-like puddles, transistors and the occasional anomaly come in and out of existence. “Shuttered” might be a computer screaming from the seventh layer of hell while the seven-plus- minute “Coriander” contains actual guitar and a very distant, ghost-like percussion. “Sometimes [Reprise] Pt 2” is one of the highlights. Marten successfully combines sheets of white noise and dissonance into something the fans of Tim Hecker will enjoy.
“Esprit D'escalier” is a haunting, creepy piece, which works because of the subtlety of the nuances. It has a hypnotic quality and may induce sleepiness. “Lonely 1” is another highlight which mirrors the title. The music is jittery white noise but underneath lays a warm hum that creates a dichotomy. It an impressive piece that didn’t last long enough but had shades of beauty.
The album closes with “One Waits There For You,” which is a sublime piece of sound. The arpeggiated notes and ethereal tones create a sense of nostalgia and mystery as if you are staring down the rabbit hole. This is one of his strongest pieces in that it has an emotional resonance that wasn't apparent on some of the other tracks.
Master Tape isn’t fluid and will most likely have an ambivalent relationship with listeners. I for one thought there were a handful of good if not exceptional moments to be embraced on Master Tape.
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