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Tape - Opera

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Artist: Tape

Album: Opera

Label: Hapna

Review date: Sep. 11, 2003

Warm and Fuzzy via Scandanavia

The Scandinavian collaborative group Tape released their first album Opera (literally “work” in Italian) to critical acclaim recently. “Work” is an apt title for this release, as the many meticulously assembled layers that make up the record attest to.

There are a few things that can be mentioned when discussing Opera that may inform readers of something other than its greatness as so-late-at-night-it-might-as-well-be-morning music. It isn’t anything “new” – it draws upon the rich history of many genres and techniques, from Pierre Schaeffer’s musique concrete, to the avant folk guitar of the American Primitives Basho and Fahey, to the “wind through the horn” sounds of improvisers Axel Doerner and Radu Malfatti, and maybe even the ghost of Hannah Hoch's narrative photo-montages. Tape does this, however, with a subtle and organic aesthetic, which is probably one reason why it works.

The acoustic guitar is the narrative thread throughout the album, grounding the electro-acoustic manipulations and field recordings that dart around it in a Fahey-esque (but softer and fluffier) mode, while also reminding one of the first Town and Country album. Despite the prevalence of a perceivable pulse throughout, Tape manages to obscure this pulse nicely, through a multitude of layers and labor-intensive mixing. The sound sources are all very warm and homey, and used sparingly (with the exception of the fifth piece, which is a bit of an oddball – it sounds vaguely like an early Aphex Twin ambient piece, due to a demanding bass vamp that continues throughout, albeit slightly morphed). If one wanted to be a cynical asshole, it could be said that Tape is plumbing the post-Tortoise, post-rock, nice-guys-make-nice-music well – and that may be true – but it is nice music.

Perhaps it is too nice and too precious, though as Opera really doesn’t have a bite – it’s the kind of record that you might well forget is on, and you might not remember you’d heard. For some people, though, that could be just right.

By Andrew Raffo Dewar

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