Tabs Out | New Batch – Midnight Circles

New Batch – Midnight Circles
5.15.18 by Ryan Masteller

Midnight Circles is a sound-art tape label based in Germany, not that you didn’t know about it or anything, because look at that deep Bandcamp catalog dating all the way back to 2014. Do you remember what you were doing in 2014? For me, life was a blur of fatherhood, which it still is, although I’m probably about 20 pounds heavier than I was four years ago. I’m not proud of that. I’m an athlete.

Speaking of athletes, if there was a decathlon for ambient music, Midnight Circles might win it. Their “focus on sound and occasional music” opens up all sorts of possibilities, and they’ve roped in all sorts of artists over the years from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines to contribute to the output. Actually, there are exactly ten different possibilities, if in fact I’m going to continue with this decathlon metaphor.

Which I’m not. I’m done with it.

The London-based Atkins haunts his tape, “The Subtle Science,” like a ghost. Like memory. Wind drifts through sampled objects, and everything is shaped into discrete passages. But although each track has its own identity, over the full course of the tape the picture crystalizes, until you’re left with what is essentially an artfully shot black-and-white film in your ears. I guess you could count Atkins among the auteur group – the more you listen, the more you realize he belongs among them. Each time you press play, new discoveries emerge, and it’s clear that Atkins is fully in control over the outcome. Now, if only he could hurl a discus properly…

Dale Cornish just has to be different. Not content to solemnly drift through time and space like some of his peers, he instead cooks up an array of short pieces to satisfy all the different experimental itches that crop up. Utilizing rhythm more obviously to generate distinct patterns, Cornish samples both electronic and acoustic sources and reworks them into less-than-recognizable forms. This is the fun of “Etiquettes,” as you can almost play “Guess the Sound Source” and actually have a good time doing it. But the fun also exists in the surprises along the way, as there are fourteen distinct pieces here, each filled to the brim with whimsy and bursting with kinetic energy. Even the more serene pieces vibrate with life.

Now let’s equate the “Etiquettes” tracks to a bunch of hurdles you have to jump over to reach the finish line of an auditory competition. You know, like in a hurdle race.

I guess we can throw “Bayou” by Catalan Coast into the mix here at the end. It’s not technically part of the March 2018 batch (it released back in December), but it showed up in the same package, so, fine, we’ll make some room for it. Good thing, too, because it’s definitely a keeper. Because who doesn’t love minimalist synthesizer loops that are 100 percent mood and 0 percent anything else, like fat? Lean and mean, this “Bayou.” The nature of the ambience even shifts from one side to the other, with the clean tonal lines of side A becoming blurred and smeared and static’d on the flip. Highly recommended for any sort of chilled-out moment you may find yourself in, like calming down your heartbeat after sprinting 100 meters.

I totally kept up that stupid metaphor, didn’t I. It was unintentional.

I. It was unintentional.

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