Talking Book – Talking Book II (Koolarrow Records, 24 April 2020)
Good day, loyal readers. Hope you all are still doing well, trying your best to stay safe and sane.
Today I’ll be sharing something that very much falls outside the standard delineation of purpose for this website: not “metal,” nor “other heavy music,” and debatable whether this would even exactly qualify (under some of the more conservative definitions) as “music.”
Talking Book began nearly ten years ago when the owners of two record labels known for their diverse and eclectic international line-ups (Koolarrow Records‘ Billy Gould and Gigante Sound‘s Jared Blum) came together to collaborate on the album The Talking Book.
Somehow, that one must have escaped my attention when it was released back in 2011 — which is somewhat surprising, considering the fact that I literally signed up for Twitter in order to follow Mr. Gould back in like 2009 when rumors were running rampant about another of his musical projects possibly reuniting, and it was said that a certain bassist and founding member’s Twitter feed would be a reliable source of information about that.
Anyway, since at time the duo were joined by Gigante Sound co-conspirator Dominic Cramp, and many years later they finally got around to recording a follow-up — which Koolarrow released nearly three weeks ago.
This triumvirate of San Franciscan artists cite such electro-ambient luminaries as Brian Eno, as well as the work of David Lynch and various other experimental and avant-garde film scores and soundtracks as inspirations for their own aural creations; these influences become clearly evident upon hearing the esoteric barrage of sounds Talking Book have produced here.
Opening with a recording of a piano, distorted and crackly like an antique filmstrip, the record begins producing contradictory sensations almost immedately: disquieting but at the same time also sort of nostalgic and almost comforting?
Over the course of the tracks that follow, ranging from brief vignettes to expansive soundscapes, the listener will be treated to: wavery synths, pulsating rhythms; glitchy rhythmic synth patterns; grim and foreboding sustained bass notes; drawn-out slow-moving sustained notes with science-fictiony synth bloops and beeps; random tinkly objects; “a disorienting kaleidoscope of noises” at one point; and at least once or twice, what can only be described as “a disturbing smattering of sounds.”
Some of these tableaus evoke moods that perfectly match their titles: for example, “The Last Time She Died,” led by a mournful reedy clarinet or melodica definitely has a reminiscing, pining feel to it; “A Sea Turned to Stone” produces a dreamy, echoey image like a seascape via gently undulating synths; and “They Came at Dawn” could have been lifted directly from a horror movie soundtrack, with its sinister whispering sounds in the background, and suspense-inducing thudding rhythms.
The fourteenth and final track “Absent Horizon” consists mostly of acoustic guitar and flutes, probably the closest to an actual “song” of any of the pieces here — serving as a fitting denouement, much like when that Pixies song plays over the end credits of Fight Club, contrasting with all the Dust Brothers madness that had preceded it.
Talking Book II can be streamed here, although to experience it as its creators intended, you should check out the vinyl edition here. It would certainly be right at home among the collection of any fan of dusty old soundtracks, ambient instrumental tone poems, abstract noise or “found sound” recordings.
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