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Aaron Dilloway / Jason Lescalleet - Grapes and Snakes

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Artist: Aaron Dilloway / Jason Lescalleet

Album: Grapes and Snakes

Label: Pan

Review date: Sep. 13, 2012

Why is this album called Grapes and Snakes? I don’t hear anything on here that could be explained by either oenology or herpetology. Perhaps the title is just a dodge to get you to Google the name and find this video, which otherwise seems entirely unrelated to either musician? Since the LP was released by PAN, a label renowned for the quality of its visual presentation, it does come encased in a record sleeve whose image conveys what the phrase “wet lunch” means to boa constrictors, but that’s where the snake business ends.

The music, on the other hand, seems to be all about synthesizers and tape decks. Both Aaron Dilloway and Jason Lescalleet play synthesizer, but while modular synths are the current underground instrument du jour, this doesn’t sound like any other synthesizer album around. That is because while the sounds may be of electronic origin, their behavior is governed by an older technology. Lescalleet and Dilloway have spent years breaking tape decks to their will, figuring out how to tweak the things’ output by fiddling with insides; if used stereo components could scuttle under a table and hide, you’d see a lot of emptied shelves whenever either of these men walks towards the back of the Goodwill store.

But on Grapes and Snakes, you’ll hear how unwilling the decks are to be broken. Drones degrade and flutter, avian cries bloat and distort, beats squelch and high notes peck like telegraphy keys, but you never forget for a second that you’re hearing something that was made by turning wheels. The music loops, but not in a clean digital way; each pass of the phrase has a variable viscosity, as though the music is wading through a waxing and waning stream of tree sap.

By Bill Meyer

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