ponedjeljak, 23. prosinca 2013.

Wixel - Revox Tapes (2013), The End (2009)


Magijska muzika za uspavljivanje (kad već spavaš).


With a little bit of luck my wife found me a dusty old Revox B77 tape recorder. Despite its rickety state, it was love a first sight. Getting it to play a tape was, to my surprise, quite a daunting task, let alone use it to record sounds. But after some loving and some serious cleaning, the record head started moving the magnetic particles of the tape again, sound was stuck onto that glorious piece of moving plastic film.
I started experimenting and recording, with the goal of composing songs especially for it. That ambition got killed rather abruptly when the B77 caught fire after an intense jamming/recording session. All I was left with was strips of sound, of which I was able to compile the some lovely results. Rather than burying it in my shelf of unfinished ideas, I thought a small cassette was a fitting salute to that wonderful machine, where music really became magic again

Tapes – the old school way – enjoy a unique, cherished relationship when it comes to music. Sure, they may have stuck in the reels (using a pencil or your index finger to wind the tape back around was the way to go), and the older they got, the more they degraded; not always a bad thing. Uneven were the fluctuations in pitch. Never, ever, has this been considered a fault – the imperfections enhance the music, and therefore the experience. Tapes are a red rose in aural form. And because they’re tied to our youth, tapes reflect a period that spans the decades rather than the months (and, in some instances, generations), when the pristine, clean mp3 files on the iTunes Store weren’t even an infant in the crib, let alone the Apple of the American company’s eye.
When we were all younger.
Revox Tapes invites you to reaffirm the belief that music is magic. Not the card trick, now you see it, now you don’t kind of magic, or even as an illusion, but a real kind of magic made possible through music (I hear you laughing at the back of the class). Is it just the displacement of vibrations in the air, eventually hitting our eardrums and producing sound as we think of it? Or is it something more than that? Something deeper? It’s your decision. In the sceptical west, where more is always more, the magic can evaporate. Indulgence in anything, no matter how much you may love it, can undermine appreciation. No matter how appealing it may be, if you eat black cherry ice cream every night, it’s gonna lose some of its flavour. Under the anvil that is the mp3 age, it’s not always easy to see (the sheer deluge of musical releases can sometimes appear to blunt the spell). You can listen all you like, but the intake of music may leave you feeling unfulfilled, despite the indulgence. The reason? It lacks soul. The tape is the sorcerer and the healer.
One thing that doesn’t change over the years is the undying passion in and for music, and the magic of the art. Boards of Canada are a perfect example of the magic in action. It’s a special sound, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. In such instances, the naïve, innocent love for music wins. Likewise, tapes, along with vinyl, can be seen as the life running through musical veins, sustaining such a warm coating of sound and providing such a rich tapestry to music in general that they have both burned their own distinctive sound into the heart of the record, and the heart of music. Despite the rise of mp3s and digital downloads – which lack soul in comparison – tapes still captivate millions of hearts. It’s still essential as an art form and to the history of music; spending time in the company of the amazing, warm fizzing of tape hiss can be similar to cuddling up beside an old lover while gazing out over a phosphorescent sunset. Magicians and musicians aren’t so far apart. The heads turn, and the music, vivid through the process, sends you to nirvana.
Revox Tapes was conceived on an old Revox B77 tape recorder. Dusty to the point of obsolete, Wixel, aka Wim Maesschalck, set his hand to the task of recording music. All did not fair well – after a marathon recording session, his adored B77 caught fire. Rising from the smoke like an ambient cloud, only ‘strips of sound’ remained. She was still alive, though. The next step was to arrange and then cut the pieces into gorgeous, enveloping textures that retained their original warmth. Naturally, if it were not for the B77 catching fire, we would not be left with the sublime Revox Tapes, which acts as both a stunning last stand to the B77, a tribute to the art and a salute to perfect dreams.
A shimmering warmth hovers over the reels, just like that sunset, emitting a glowing aura of low-fi ambience; temperate climes that are tinted with nostalgia. Breezy harmonics coast over one another, ringing out caring chimes that are usually associated with daydreams. This is ‘Drowse’, the thirteen minute opener, lulling you into the dozy, sun-drenched warmth of the reels, the tape alive. Vibrato punctures the airwaves as notes sustain endlessly.
Acoustic guitars are crusted with tape hiss – the kind that soothes any lingering anxieties or fear – until you are completely at peace. Revox Tapes is a peaceful recording. The striking thunder that announces ‘Summer Chords’ departs almost immediately, only a dissipating threat to the tranquility, and the atmosphere flushes with a bright radiance. Blushing tones filter in soft, inviting light. ‘Chord Shimmer’ chimes out the soft, plucked sound of strings and lets the intervals ring off each other, cascading down in a gentle wash of ambient, with a little background hiss to add real substance to the higher pitched notes. Just experiencing the background hiss of the tape is enough – it’s the affectionate, almost reassuring sound of a medium that’s still alive.
If the secret of the magician’s trick is exposed, it can lose some of its potency, let alone integrity. Music should always have a little bit of magic – the crackles of black vinyl or the flickers on tape are proof of the magic in action. Throughout Revox Tapes, there’s a sense of just letting go – have belief, and see where it takes you.
Even the light looks and feels different when listening to Revox Tapes. Sunshine refracts a rainbow of lens flare, smiles come into view and there’s a sweet promise of summer amid the chilled out ambient vibes. It scorches a distant memory into your eyes once again, into the present. And because of that, it’s music to remember. Music to savour, to digest and then absorb into your system – into your veins. It’s feel good music, celebrating both the process and the art.
Wixel invites you to recapture the magic – and it should be cherished. - James Catchpole for Fluid Radio

The digital submission was sitting in the in-box, but I had already ordered the cassette.  ”Wait for the tape!” implored Jordskred’s Louis Reith.  And he was right. Revox Tapes is a tape about tapes; to listen to this release in any other fashion seems improper.
Revox Tapes is also a comeback of sorts for Wim Maesschalck (Wixel), who’s been on a small break following a flurry of activity in 2009, when he released a disc every month for a year.  We were worried that he might have burned himself out, but this wasn’t the case; instead, better things arrived with a wedding and baby.  (Congratulations Wim!)  This life change makes Wixel’s own Slaapwel label an unintentionally fitting match, as most children need a little bit of help to fall asleep.  (On a personal note, my own 18-month old nephew has responded beautifully to Wixel’s Clouds.)  At one time, the label even held a series of overnight concerts, complete with beds ~ pretty much the coolest idea ever.
So can one fall asleep to Revox Tapes?  Possibly ~ but the cassette is better described as landing halfway between Wixel’s more immediate projects and his Slaapwel roster.  It’s gentle and soothing, but active, with acoustic guitar underpinnings and light electronic glitch.  In other words, it’s not a tape to put folks to sleep, but a tape that won’t wake the baby.  Even the children playing on Side A seem to be respectful of the need for restraint.
The project began when Wixel’s wife found “a dusty old Revox B77 tape recorder” and the artist began to use it to record music.  But then the machine caught on fire!  (Better check those vintage machines, folks.)  Fortunately some segments of sound were preserved, which became the basis of this recording.  As such, Revox Tapes represents both nostalgia and preservation in a way that many recordings do not.  It’s not just an image of memory, but memory itself.  Becoming a parent connects past to present with vivid imagery:  all of a sudden, we are no longer just parents, but children again, digging in crates, recording on dusty devices, making mistakes, letting them go.  Revox Tapes says, I remember.  
If the recording sounds less crisp than a digital copy, it’s also more authentic.  What track are we on? ~ I don’t know.  And that’s the beauty of the experience.  It’s not about tracks, not about the value of any specific passage, not about any potential single.  When the music begins to warp on Side B, one doesn’t know (at first, at least) if the warp is intentional or even if it is a flaw in our own tape deck. The listener forges a connection to the artist through the act of playing the tape.  Cassettes are fragile, and so is life.  We hear Wixel puttering around a bit on the second side, even as traffic passes nearby: an exquisitely personal juxtaposition.  Perhaps most lovely is the pop at the end of Side B, as if the artist had been recording a tape over a tape, and had been unable to erase that final note.  Those who have experienced such a dilemma remember the feeling:  it’s not perfect, but it will have to be good enough.  And so it is.  The unwanted sound, in the hands of someone else, has become something to cherish.  Would this sound the same in digital form?  No, and that’s the point.  The digital form will sound the same each time, while the magnetized ribbon may not, ephemeral as music and memory and all the more precious as a result. - Richard Allen

Wixel is, unfortunately, somewhat of an unknown name in the music realm. Having been releasing music since 2002, Wim Maesschalck has never garnered the attention that he so rightfully deserves. It's not altogether surprising however, as his music is mostly a highly atmospheric ambient string and there just isn't a big enough market for this type of genre. There should be. Maesschalck is a brilliant composer whose music has always been this very subtle, experimental style of stringed ambient compositions that usually are led by guitar arrangements. In 2009, he did the unthinkable and released 12 records over the course of the year. Each album would correspond with each month and the story was filled with layers of mystical prowess and pure elegance. That project, in my opinion, really pushed Wixel to the very top of the ambient music dynamic.
Revox Tapes is the newest record by Wixel and his first since the string of albums released in 2009. The 4 year departure from solo records didn't surprise me and the break seems to have given Maesschalck a storm of ideas. This album's story revolves around an old revox tape recorder that his wife had come across by pure chance. With Maesschalck's overwhelming brilliance in the form of music composing, his ideas ran wild with this discovery. He began recording a record specifically using this tape recorder but after a short time, the recorder actually caught fire and was destroyed. After some time to grieve over the loss, Maesschalck quickly continued the same project he had begun with the recorder and his focus on the songwriting remained in direct attention to the old, dusty tape recorder. Each of the songs off this album are these incredibly delicate and dense structures that wash over you as a listener. The chiming guitar picking and washed out reverb that harmonizes together so beautifully and uniquely, end up sounding angelic. Wixel has always had this type of beauty in every one of his records but on Revox Tapes, the layered ensembles tell this magnificent story, even without the use of any type of vocalization. The tape, in essence, speaks for itself on this release and Wixel continues to be, in my opinion, one of the greatest ambient musicians of this decade. - Eric Platenyk


The End (2009) 2009.bandcamp.com/album/wixel-the-end

Unwind Oct 2009
  • Norway Aug 2009
  • Slaapliedjes #2 Jul 2009
  • An Empty Canvas Jun 2009
  • Two Old Songs May 2009
  • Slaapliedjes Apr 2009
  • Blood Red Bird Mar 2009
  • Clouds Feb 2009
  • Winter Jan 2009
  • Herfst Oct 2006
  • Heart May 2006


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