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Heatsick - Total Afternoon Sundae

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Artist: Heatsick

Album: Total Afternoon Sundae

Label: Alcoholic Narcolepsy

Review date: Jan. 10, 2007

Steven Warwick, half of the up-and-coming sound abusers Birds of Delay, has been using his own Alcoholic Narcolepsy label to spread his solo Heatsick project. Any more releases like this one and it’s only a matter of time before the bigger underground indies come calling. This cassette might look like the label’s most professional looking release yet, but the project’s roots still sound resolutely lo-fidelity. But where in the past Heatsick required some effort on the listeners behalf, meeting the music halfway, Total Afternoon Sundae comes running with open arms and a doped-up grin. As good as those previous efforts have been, this one feels like it’s cleared out some blockage between the music and listener, the hurdle of formlessness, hurtling it up to the next level.

The opening piece, which takes up the whole first side, is thick and sweetly queasy, like too much lukewarm ice cream. Its tides of short-wave radio rise and fall on top of other sounds, melting into each other like a gelatinous mass of sugar. There’s a dash of arresting Spacemen 3 style drone laid in there too, swirling like tangible energy at the piece’s edges. The pulpy mash of organ and synth guts seems to be rotting and blossoming at the same time within the magnetic tape.

There are touches of beauty on the rest of the tape, too, a little less thick perhaps, but no less explicit. Even the bent pitches of “Later Mirror” and its broken game show vibe can’t hide the song’s silvery splendour. “Exactly, Exactly” takes this idea further again, creating a ever-moving rush of gorgeous sounds, the constantly rolling and peripatetic blooming tones reproducing without assistance. The closing “Unspent Realisation of Dawning Release” sees Warwick performing the same kind of magic that Richard D. James did with soldering irons on Selected Ambient Works II. The cut-price ambience of the keyboard’s melody is easy to get lost in; the sound quality and tape hiss just adds to the charm.

The cassette format is endearing, but when you run into a great release like, the inadequacies become more inconvenience than charm. It’s very probable that each listen to Total Afternoon Sundae is minutely degrading this recording; its brilliance, and the need for repeated listens, gradually destroying the music. This is a release already in dire need of a CD reissue.

By Scott McKeating

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