Blackest Ever Black / UK / 2015
A unique synthesis of time-dilating folk-jazz romanticism, brittle chamber dub and plasmic post-techno electronics, Tarquin Magnet is Australian artist Tarquin Manek's first full solo release on Blackest Ever Black, but by no means his first contribution to the label: he is one half of Tarcar (with Carla dal Forno) and a member of F ingers (with dal Forno and Sam Karmel), while his track Not Missing You'features on the BEB compilation I Can't Give You The Life You Want. Manek has been busy elsewhere, too: he released Th Duo, an LP made under his LST alias, on Another Dark Age earlier this year.
The disturbed and enchanted environments of Tarquin Magnet are the result of improvisation, domestic field recording and fastidious editing; for all its rough textures and strange juxtapositions, this is masterfully mixed and arranged music, its deep spatial dynamics and higher dub logic powerfully apparent. 13-minute opener Sassafras Gesundheit'is the sound of a mind unraveling, or winding itself tighter for no good reason at all. Comparisons are pointless, but we won't let that stop us: think Edge of Illusion-era John Surman meets Karel Goeyvaerts' minimalist phase in a Firehouse, delivered with the no-fidelity recklessness of the best Oz/NZ underground traditions.
From here on in, Magnet is denser and harder to navigate: first the spooling noise and strung-out junkyard gamelan of Fortunes Past'and Fortunes Begun', then Side Two: where the atmosphere congeals into one of - ¦not dread exactly, but certainly isolation and estrangement. Perfect Scorn'is a tour de force of crack'd kosmische, pitched somewhere between folk-tale and science fiction: through queer electro-magnetic ambience a distress signal emerges, leading us to the corridors and storm-drains of a city deserted but for its obsolete machinery and a few alcoholics immune to apocalypse. Imagine The Shadow Ring or Small Cruel Party trying to find common ground with Dettinger or Pole, or the sound of a million servers crashing and taking our memories with them. This is what the future will sound like. Manek's deft psycho-acoustic landscaping culminates in 'Blackest Frypan': a puzzle-box of insinuating, paranormal resonances, coaxed from steel guitar strings, stifled screams and subaqueous bleeps. Marrying wracked bedroom psychedelia with gloopy alien concrète and dubwise, third-eye-open sound design, Manek has created an album of singular and persuasive vision.