Jason Zeh: Heraclitus

For folks who have not had the pleasure of either seeing Jason perform live or hearing his work, he manipulates multiple spools of cassette tape (and their shells, reels, guide rollers, and pressure pads) with fire, water, hand held demagnetizers, and manual tweaking--and that's just the starting point. Each cassette component may be disassembled, reassembled (with parts added or expelled), stretched, shrunk, or otherwise permutated into a condition it was likely never intended to be put into. The result is rewarding listening for dedicated ears.

Limited edition details:

--45 copies, each in a cardstock jewelry box Jason has hand-decorated with his distinct copier-based art.

--Inside the box:

1) the CD
2) a loop cassette, with unique audio (and artwork) for each copy
3) loose cassette tape with unique audio for each copy
4) signed and numbered artwork / inserts
5) two buttons, also featuring Jason's artwork

Short anecdote: the first time I saw Jason live was a muggy summer night in a nonairconditioned space in Chicago.
As Zeh sat on the floor, encircled by piles of cassettes, loose cassette tape, and a dozen or so table top cassette players--and none of it miked up--perhaps 20 to 25 of us stood over him in absolute silence, sweat dripping off brows, as we all listened to the subtle creaks, whistles, whirrs, and cassette shells clacking on the floor as they were ejected from the players. It was one of the most attentive and respectful audiences I'd ever witnessed, and to say the simplicity and beauty of his set grabbed me would be a gross understatement; indeed, it was the impetus for this release.


In the very first few minutes of Jason Zeh's debut CD (following several CDR releases including one on Gameboy Records) we hear a 'tabletop cassette recorder over a candle flame while recording'. This is the very basic thing that is used to create the rest of the composition - all melted into one piece, from start to finish. The processing stages this went through all deals with cassettes, in which literally everything from the cassette, the shells, guide rollers and pressure pads is used to alter the sound. All of these stages were recorded and from all these recordings the final composition was created. A dense work, which at times had some similarities to the work of Howard Stezler (especially his most recent work 'Bond Inlets') or Brutum Fullmen, of corroded sounds, rotten sounds and decay in general. Divided into several parts, with quite some dynamics (although things never get really loud), this is simply one of the most engaging things I heard recently. While on one hand connected to the world of microsound, mainly through the final composition, the techniques are more or less ancient, yet even by any old standard, this all sounds mysterious and not muffled, or hidden in a bath of hiss, like many of his ancestors did sound on tape. It owes in the technique department more to the old masters of musique concrete, yet with an entirely different outcome. As Heraclitus said you can never step into the same river twice (panta rhei), you can loop a tape, but it never sounds the same. Highlight, for me, of this week.--Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly, August 12

let us not forget that there exist reclusive musicians who record their alchemical experiments alone in their bedrooms in backwater towns...many of these folks are capable of intense, free, and productive creativity precisely because they seal themselves off from the distractions that so many of us face...some of these people never leave their hometowns to tour, or even perform in public at all...Jason Zeh lives in Bowling Green, Ohio, and has produced noise-based recordings on cassette for years...this is his first cd release, on Chicago's esteemed Crippled Intellect Productions label...it's a single 37-minute track of an experiment Zeh conducted by holding a cheap cassette recorder over a candle flame while recording (destroying the machine), then manipulating the resulting tape...it's a rich, dense drone of variegated, warbly hums and pops that churns fitfully for awhile before sinking into a chasm of near-silence for the last 10-12 minutes...(A-)--WZRD (88.3 FM Chicago)

 

 


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