Taskerlands

by Taskerlands

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'While we've raved about the insane and insanely elaborate packaging from local boutique label Time Released Sound, we try to stress that all this fancy pants packaging wouldn't mean shit though if the music wasn't able to stand on its own, and thankfully, since a lot of the TRS releases sell out before we can get our hands on them, or are just a bit too pricey for some folks, they also come available as more affordable discs in less extravagant packaging, which is especially good news, cuz it would be sad for music like this to only make it into the ears of the 80 people who managed to nab the deluxe version. Taskerlands is a duo consisting of Michael Tanner, aka Plinth, who was responsible for that incredible Collected Machine Music disc all created from the sounds of vintage music boxes, and David Colohan from psych folk outfit United Bible Studies. Tanner and Colohan each strap on a guitar, run it through some pedals, and out comes some gloriously dreamy pastoral psychedelic folk, lush and sun dappled, the notes and chords wreathed in reverb and echo and allowed to drift weightless over darkly delicate piano, and the sweet melodies from a bass clarinet fluttering just below the surface. Two twenty-one minute tracks, each one a softly smoldering sonic rumination, slipping from dense tangles of abstract Appalachia to brooding low end swirl, flickering melodic drift to dark distorted droned out minor key dirges, from haunting hypnotic thrum, to washed out hazy psychedelic shimmer. Lovely, lovely stuff. Not as limited as the deluxe version, but limited nonetheless, so grab one before they're gone!' Aquarius Records

'Lately I’ve been toying around with the idea that one of the most significant developments in the recent history of music is the (rere)revival of folk, and particularly the new horizons subsequently explored by artists involved in this revival. While I won’t derail this review with too much contemplation of that musical current, let me at least say that the highly individual developments that some artists undergo are often combined in this network-organised scene in collaboration albums, and these can result in even more intricate musical evolutions.

More concretely: Taskerlands is the love child of Michael Tanner (Plinth, The A. Lords) and David Colohan (Agitated Radio Pilot, Raising Holy Sparks), whose paths crossed earlier in United Bible Studies. Both are artists who have carved an impressive niche for themselves in that loose international network of musicians that might very well be a current, working not only solo in a variety of acoustic, electronic, and folk-inspired ways, but also as supporting musicians for many other artists. This album, however, is the first where both come together as a creative duo, fusing their unique styles in something sounds unmistakably like something ‘Tanner and Colohan’, yet which you’d be hard put to hear anywhere else.

Even more concretely: this means two twenty-minute soundscapes, based on flowing melodies and drones for guitar and effects, with added colour in the form of bass clarinet (Seán Mac Erlaine, previously working as Sean Òg), piano (Kerrie Robinson), and ‘frequencies’ (Richard Moult). Though there are at least two small breaks, both pieces can be considered part of one big whole which breathes the gentle atmosphere that corresponds perfectly to the titles they chose for these tracks: as if a landscape – as green as Britain or Ireland – was submerged under the ocean, and we could pass through its terrain with the ease of a fish, taking in the fusion of an aquatic landscape with one that used to be dry, and wondering at the sights.

In terms of composition or improvisation – perhaps a combination of both – Taskerlands runs the gamut from minimal music and ambient pioneering to gentle free jazz and the pastoral atmospheres of psychedelic folk, elements we could already find in parts of both Plinth’s and Agitated Radio Pilot’s oeuvre, but nowhere as intensely merged as on this marvellous album. The combination of soft meandering melodies and a melancholic droning touch is something both men excel in.

If my first paragraph makes sense, then this project is something of a poster child for the musical movement I’m as yet struggling to describe, in which folk influences meet up with ambient and jazz, and so much more. Not only that, but it is a luscious work simply as it stands, without its historical context.Time Released Sound should be honoured to be releasing this end of April, in a special handmade boxed edition, as well as a regular CD following later. I for one am going to cherish this as much as some of the other brilliant works by these artists, and so should you. Here’s hoping they’ll get together again some time.'

Reviewed by O.S. Evening of Light.

"The term ‘mood record’ is often criminally over-used, a critical shorthand for describing an ephemeral listening experience that might be difficult to articulate. Sometimes, even the most verbose of language fails in depicting a certain sound impression to a reader. The notes dance away from relatable grasp, lighter than air, an atmosphere evoked without being anchored in any tangible emotion.

Taskerlands, a collaboration between Michael Tanner of Plinth and David Colohan of United Bible Studies and Agitated Radio Pilot, is most definitely a mood record, but one that conjures up more than mere atmosphere. These two extended pieces for guitar and keys were apparently ‘recorded in an unlit Belfast attic during one of the coldest winters in years’, and that would be the impression one would surely gather, whether reading the background or not. These pieces practically breathe frozen fingers in shaking, gloved hands, breath fogging in darkened, chilled spaces of wood and rusted metal, the outside world awash in white and swirling gray. The season and the nature of the recording situation must have weighed heavily on how these improvisations turned out. Plinth often works in precise mechanics and in miniature, as in their series of acclaimed recordings made with Victorian musical machines. And while the guitar workouts here tend more towards the dusty, reverb-hazed psychedelica of Colohan’s Agitated Radio Pilot, there’s still a sense of minute precision here, of exactitude in every swell of mellotron and every carefully plucked note of chiming, echoing guitars.

I’ll admit that this album has grown close to my heart already, after only a half-dozen extended listens, for a number of reasons that relate to my own aesthetics and experiences. Mr. Tanner relates that this recording was made with badly-grounded equipment, and thus they had to embrace the inherent technological foul-ups while putting the pieces to tape. I live in a 102-year old home in Burlington, North Carolina, thousands miles of ocean from Belfast, but the principle is the same. Working with ungrounded outlets, I’ve become accustomed to ever-present technological challenges while recording or rehearsing, but I’ve embraced them to where they’ve become a part of my music’s sound-map. Similarly, Taskerlands is awash with such moments that only add to the dream-like, ethereal nature of the proceedings. I’m always pleased in some secret, mysterious when I’m reminded of the shortcomings of musical equipment in recordings, when their inherent errors become part of the work itself, and color it with unexpected shades and textures. It renders them almost human-like. Taskerlands is never overwhelming or precious with this unintended ‘happy accident’, but its presence only adds to the overall sensation of some ghostly aura hovering about the music, something balanced just at the periphery of the notes.

Ghostly is certainly the word for it. Taskerlands is named for the haunted mansion from the classic 70s BBC supernatural-thriller program The Stone Tape. In the story, a team of engineers working for a firm researching potential new recording devices set up in a long-abandoned manse, and discover that a ghost seems to be ‘recorded’ into the wall of a forgotten room. Their idle interest soon shifts to finding a way to generate an entire new recording medium, with expectedly macabre consequences. While the cutting edge technology of the time is somewhat antiquated now (and there is a certain amusement to the researchers discussing tape as the highlight of the recording technology of the time, viewed from this era of the iPod and the mp3), with tape’s rebirth as a fetish object of both experimental musicians and record-bin-scavengers alike, there’s a certain nostalgic poignance to films like The Stone Tape. Taskerlands is a most aptly-named collaboration, the product of sound scientists in an attic working with faulty technology, trying to discover something new that might turn out to haunt them. Collaborations are always a dicey venture, and can end in incompatibility and missed opportunities. In this case, Mr. Tanner and Mr. Colohan have made my favorite album of the year thus far, a masterpiece of mood and hues of raw emotion, and I can only hope they’re encouraged to continue their researches into the possibilities of sound. (Zachary Corsa - A Closer Listen)"

'Time Released Sound are known for the sheer attention to detail they put into their limited CD releases, and this one has been put out in a mega-limited “chocolate box” 2x3” CD edition which we're still not sure if we'll be able to even get a hold of. We've definitely got the 5” CD version already though. Needless to say that I, whilst reviewing this from a plain old promo, am more than a little curious to see how the finished product looks in the flesh!

Taskerlands is the duo of Michael “Plinth” Tanner and David “United Bible Studies” Colohan, both on guitar, with a little assistance from friends on piano, bass clarinet and “frequencies”. We've got two songs totalling 40+ minutes of somnolent, tinkly ambience with a slight Harold Budd feel. The dominance of guitar tones lends it a slightly psych-folky angle; but if there's one foot in ambient and one foot in psych folk, the one in ambient is certainly the larger and heavier foot.

The tones contained within are all relaxing and light and designed to ease the pressure off your tightly squeezed mind grapes for a while when you need a little respite. They work, too. Nicely done.' Norman Records

credits

released November 11, 2012

David Colohan - Right Guitar
Michael Tanner - Left Guitar

with:

Seán Mac Erlaine - Bass Clarinet
Kerrie Robinson - Upright Piano
Richard Moult - Frequencies

Improvised live in an attic room on borrowed equipment during a bitter Belfast Winter, January 2011.
Mixed & mastered at Greenwitch, Dorset.

This album is dedicated to James Rider.

Originally released on Time Released Sound as TRS016 in a run of limited 3inch 'Chocolate Box' editions and standalone CD

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David Colohan Ireland

'An eerie loveliness that should really be soundtracking a Werner Herzog film; indeed Popol Vuh’s work provides a useful reference point for Raising Holy Sparks as, similar to Vuh, the music herein is almost religious in its solemnity and grace.' The Active Listener ... more

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