Max Eilbacher and die Reihe's New Releases Represent Sound Art's Shapeshifting Possibilities
The two new releases on the experimental institution NNA Tapes mine the dancefloor and the academy with equal aplomb.
Max Eilbacher and die Reihe, photos courtesy of the artists.
The Vermont-born label NNA Tapes has long established itself as one of the United States' premiere homes for genre-agnostic, boundary-pushing experimentation—music united more in its forward-thinking approach than any specific sound or scene. In 2016 alone, they've been home to releases of drippy alien concrete from Wanda Group, the interstellar brass and woodwind drones of Travis Laplante & Peter Evans' Secret Meeting, Tredici Bacci's cosmic orchestral post-Morricone compositions (out tomorrow!), and Nerftoss' twisted take on house music.
The label's curatorial choices cover a lot of ground, but it's all music that favors expansion, redefinition, the sort of sounds that force you to reconsider and recontextualize your previous understanding of how genre works. Tomorrow, in addition to the previously announced release from Tredici Bacci, NNA is also putting out two cassettes as a special surprise—new tapes from die Reihe and Horse Lords member Max Eilbacher that uphold the label's tradition of shapeshifting.
Die Reihe—the recording project of New Yorker Jack Callahan—returns with Housed, a cassette that surveys the history of house music and comes up with something a little more warped. A press release notes that Callahan sampled over 250 house tracks from over 150 artists in the making of this two track release, and you can hear it in the jittery panic of these compositions. It's a stuttering collage of organ snippets and cymbal hits, the sounds of the genre ripped from their skeleton to present something wonderfully formless and misshapen. Callahan apparently approached the organization in an aleatoric sort of way—randomizing samples on the first piece and then arranging them shortest to longest on the second—but if you cross your eyes enough structure starts to emerge, as if you can feel the dull throb that originally imbued these microscopic tracks even though they've been melted down and reconstituted.
As the bassist and electronics wrangler for the Baltimore band of rhythmic contortionists Horse Lords, Max Eilbacher does his share of limber, legible instrumental work. But the beauty of his new tape, Schizophrenia as Architecture, is that he can fade into abstraction and still make music with the same crackling sort of energy. Utilizing a modular setup in conjunction with field recordings and some spoken word samples, Eilbacher constructs four pieces that prize transformation above all else. Dipping and diving between panicky percussive sounds, syrupy static, and fragmented melodies before you can really latch onto any specific rhythm, it's a record of constant motion, a forward momentum that comes from the twitchy diversity of the sounds that make it up.
Taken together, the two tapes offer a testament to the power of what sound art can do—to look to the past or the future, and change the way you hear a specific set of sonic cues—drawing structure from randomness or momentum from stillness. You can stream both releases here or snag the tapes over at NNA's Bandcamp.