Tabs Out | Carmen Villain & Jacober – Sketch for Winter: IX & X

Carmen Villain & Jacober – Sketch for Winter: IX & X

3.23.21 by Matty McPherson

It is always thrilling to find an email from Bobby Power in your inbox! Geographic North, the label he co-runs, has been firing up their engines here in 2k21, steamrolling in with TWO entries into their long-running Sketch for Winter series: IX: Peralta and X: Immortal Word! Sketches for Winter has seen GN invite underground experimental celebs (like Pan American, Louise Bock, Moon Diagrams) and let them strike up their own idea of the sounds of winter. For this recent block of Sketches, Carmen Villain (IX: Peralta) and Jacober (X: Immortal Word) have entered the fray. 

Now, if you have been following GN, then neither of these artists should be complete newbies. Villain’s a compilation veterean (having appeared on A Little Night Music in between making “Affection in a Time of Crisis” for Longform Editions) and Jacober’s 2015 tape is a foundation to the Geographic North sound. Thus, it would seem appropriate that both artists’ Sketches continue evolutions in their respective sounds.

Villain did not originally intend for Perlita to be a Sketch for Winter until Power and Farbod Kokabi both heard her tracks. Her adventures through longform ambient in 2020 led to a newfound tabula rasa, culminating in the compilation track “Dissolving Edges”. Focused on the minutia, the track meticulously stripped back the sound of ambient dub n’ drums, pushing synth textures to the foreground. Perlita does continue in the same vein as “Affection in a Time of Crisis” and “Dissolving Edges” with airy synths and slinking percussives grounding the tones of these tracks. Tethered together, they are practically a gust of fresh snow powder, gently landing on your whiskers from the start of “Everything Without Shadow”. 

Complementing these sounds are the flute melodies of Johanna Scheie Orellana. Orellana is practically a commando, guiding these tracks and stretching the melodies towards grander depths; on “Agua Azula”, she practically waltzes across the step-stone beat. Besides the gorgeous fusion, Villain has also become more entangled with field recordings. The snippets range from an affirming coda (“Two Halves Touching”) repeated into existence to the sounds of platonic crowds (“Light in Phases”). “Things That Are Solid” is a particular standout, employing rhythmic strips of musique concrete as an epiphany between friends occurs in the background. It feels like a memory that would be archived on a scratchy acetate, from a future that could still be. For as brief as Perlita is, these moments give it a grand sense of character and location.

Jacober’s previous release on Geographic North, The Gray Man, took the Marimba sound and recast it as a part of ghostly American southern folklore. Immortal Word may not have a ghost story immediately tied to its sound, but Jacober’s Marimba is more spacious than ever. Incorporating chillwave-esque synths that give off an antsy haze, Immortal Word is a sonic postcard from that misbegotten carnival island your parents swore they were going to take you to for your fifth birthday! Opener “Four Horsemen” could easily be an enduring composition for the carousel, until reverb elongates his percussion into a hall of mirrors, impossible to untangle; “Toast” starts with a jubilant stride down the pier, slowly rendered to oblivion with pitch shifting echoes and an encroaching rainstorm.

Speaking of, rain, in all its variations, travels through Jacober’s tape (more than the stray showers on Perlita). If these effects spark your hauntological receptors, then just wait until you hear the sounds of a ship horn on the title track–which layers Marimba loops like bumper cars crashing into each other! Though the most suggestive qualities of hauntology are engaged with on “Universal Sign”. Cracked drums and vaporous stutters make it feel like one’s adrift in an eternal grey, as Jacober’s Marimba rumbles like a voice just out of reach. It is the most paranoid dub has sounded since Pan-American’s early days.

Both Villain and Jacober’s Sketches for Winter are subtle, yet complementary entries into the Sketches for Winter series. If you have been following the series, these releases might even strike you as the polar opposite of brooding sketches of the pre-pandemic winter. Even at their most isometric there are moments of light and grace on these tapes; invitations to somewhere that can be. It recalls a bit of John Hassell’s fourth world music–in their own idiosyncratic ways, that only Geographic North can curate.

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