What’s great about Front & Follow’s ‘The Blow’ series of curated split / collaborative releases is that there’s not remotely prescriptive: the two artists are given a side of audio for a cassette and download release to fill as they fancy. Sometimes there’s cross-pollination and intersection, others not. The other things that’s great about these releases is that they simple are outstanding, with the selected artists complimenting one another, sometimes in unexpected and unusual ways.
This, the fourth in the series, isn’t one of the collaborative efforts: Jodie Lowther occupies side 1 with 12 short pieces, the longest of which is just over 4 minutes, while A.R.C. Soundtracks serve up a single composition that’s half an hour long. And yet the absolute contrast is in itself complimentary.
Lowther’s nebulous, fluffy, vaporous, cloud-like compositions drift in the mellowest and most innocuous of ways, passing quiet almost subliminal and yet so soft, so gentle, so like a bed of cotton wool.
‘Delirium Sea’ brings dolorous, changing beats and slow-building crests of sound, but for the lager part the pieces – some barely fragments, ideas yet fully realised and part-evolved – are driven not by rhythm but by tonality and textural variation. Elsewhere, notes flitter and skitter, warp and yawn all over. It’s the kind of woozy, disorientating oddness that affects the headspace, and leaves you feeling muzzy.
A.R.C. Soundtracks’ ‘Taken Up& Dissolved’, with a running time of 28:31 is almost an album in its own right. It’s dark, dark ambient, dominated by booming echoes of thunder and drones that stretch out into eternity. And what’s more, with the numerous shifts and transitions, it could readily be separated into segments: as such it’s all in the approach. That isn’t to say it sound alike to Jodie Lowther’s contributions. Far from it. The rhythms more pulsations than defined beats, and the atmosphere is intense, dark, claustrophobic. Samples filter in here and there, against dolorous bass notes and heartbeat-echo beats.
On the one hand, it’s fairly background: on the other, it’s an understated work which warrants attention. Overall…. It’s brilliant. As we all knew it would be.