Tabs Out | A Giant Fern’s Giant September Furnishings

A Giant Fern’s Giant September Furnishings
9.17.14 by Ian Franklin

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I love an attention to the details. You can feel when something has been forged with time and planning, it has a certain radiance to it that at first might not seem obvious, but reveals itself through closer inspection. Portugal based label A Giant Fern demonstrates that attention quite clearly with their September 2014 batch of tapes offering up 4 killer releases from Roadside Picnic + Charles Barabé, Hidden Persuaders, øjeRum, and Micromelancolié, each with three different cover options. This all makes a bit more sense when you realize that all of the cover art (12 different collage works over 4 releases) is the work of prolific Danish artist and musician øjeRum, who has a release within the batch as well. Crafting handmade collages of the finest order, each release here has some thematic similarities to its covers, like the black backgrounds on the Hidden Persuaders release, the distorted faces of øjeRum’s, and the flashes of color on the Micromelancolié; but all of the covers follow the theme of inset images on a white matte which creates a clean and enticing package. Brilliant and eye catching design, let’s jump in to the sounds.

Kicking it off with Roadside Picnic + Charles Barabé, these two noisers get right into it with some scurvy metallic swashes and pulsating feedback ringing on a “Worn Paths In Crown Dust” (C66). Nothing feels overly strenuous though, the mood remaining a calm but eerie anxiety. Slow infiltrations of dissonant tones creep up over a misty fog of bassy synth, flickering pops and subdued whistles. Settling in some more, the territory starts to open and give way to sweeping drones and wide open calls. B side continues with a return to the dank and drippy, like hearing the forest from just beyond the cave entrance. More structured flashes of synth emanate from inside the cave while a growing, pulsating rhythm lures you ever farther down. Finishing off the album with a triumphant distorted melody and sweeping static brushes, Roadside Picnic and Charles Barabé develop a wonderfully expressive landscape over the +1 hrs of music.

Existing only in the slightest of exhalations, Micromelancolié expertly brings huge emotional draw out of delicate moods and restraint. “Ensemble Faux Pas” (C38) starts off with soft piano brushes, allowing room for shuffling ticks, high frequency percussive static which dances in the inner ear. Miles and miles of glowing, soft drone lilt on the moonlit riverbank disturbed only by a few brief moments of a howling dog and shadowy plucked tones. The air is so still and tranquil. B side continues with a single burning drone among field recordings of maybe an actual field or swamp area. Insects buzz and chirp along, disrupted by the distant shriek of a young girl. The mood turns very ominous and the synths give way to minor chord moaning swells. Never pausing to explore any specific unsettling moment, Micromelancolié instead weaves an extended drift into an uncomfortable and disparate dream-like existence.

Hidden Persuaders come in next with “The Bone Forest”, a C28 of dark and foreboding conjuring from the project of Andreas Brandal. Short-blast snare drum echoes develop in to a barebones death walk rhythm with distorted vocal growls leading the procession. Mixing in elements of ambient, drone, harsh noise/PE, and electroacoustic flourishes, Brandal creates a new and compelling experience. On the title track, flickering ambiance gives way to a momentous surge of distorted drums and syncopated crunching rhythms. Crumbling synths combine with a steady bass line to throw this groove into semi-structured territory while still keeping a loose and wandering feel. Top notch sound design on this release: knives being sharpened, boots crunching down on helpless objects, distorted synth growls, mic’ed hand drums, broken radio frequencies. Don’t miss this one.

Last, but in no way least, is øjeRum’s C34 “There Is A Flaw In My Iris”, a reflective and well-paced album of tape recordings featuring electro-acoustic pieces for guitar, synth, and voice. These pieces are so delicate, and not in the fragile sense, but rather they never once overstep their bounds or become unwieldy. Moving at a slow and consistent tempo, acoustic guitar melodies provide the shell for other explorative sounds of whistles, bells, plucked strings, chimes, and clicks to develop and swim through the open space. Just like his collage work, øjeRum’s music demands detailed inspection to pick up on some of the intricacies: the faint, glitchy reverberations surrounding the acoustic guitar on “Mist”, the dissonant twinge in the repeating melody line of “When”, the muted trumpet on “Picture”, the backwards glassy synth on “Matka”. The mix was superbly handled, allowing the guitar to breathe on its own while other elements weave and intertwine themselves. The vocals are sung deeply and delicately but retain their overall power in the middle of the spectrum. It’s my new standard for electroacoustic mixing reference; a simply beautiful work.

Each release comes in a pro-dubbed edition of 50 and is for sale through A Giant Fern’s Bandcamp. There doesn’t appear to be anyway to select which cover of a specific release you may want, but rest assured, all of the artwork here is truly outstanding. I highly suggest you take a listen and pick up what you can.

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