I was not aware of Humanhood, but a timely email by label honcho Thaniel Ion Lee – himself a valuable sound and visual artist – woke me up from the torpor. Its subject was the last offering by a pair of composers who are rated very highly in this house: Howard Stelzer and Brendan Murray have in fact released new, and inevitably gripping material on a 50-copy limited edition cassette. As per Lee’s ironic remark, “order now or buy it for double on Discogs later”.
After such an introduction, why not talk about the stupid technical details. Only, there are none. We merely know that Commuter consists of three tracks, all of them simply magnificent. Presumably this is a trademark long-distance project based on files/tapes exchange and gradual assemblage; Stelzer and Murray are rightly considered out-and-out masters in this area of acoustic collage. The reason behind that proficiency is simple: the flawless integration of familiarity and inscrutability (or, if you so prefer, of insight and wretchedness). A nifty cross-breed of field recordings, unspecified sources and – possibly – magnified final breaths of some sort of decaying equipment lies at the basis of a music that projects the listener way beyond the “ambient industrial” suggestion utilized by Humanhood to introduce the tape.
What we can affirm without doubts is that this work reveals hours, days and weeks of painstaking listening, positioning and mixing. The sonic events may be heard as they abruptly come to light, or just emerge – sometimes almost unnoticed – from a thick fog to rapidly establish an environmental dominance. Overall, a contaminated pulsating entrancement born from the cohabitation of pseudo-static textures and phantom presences. Soothing and disquieting at once.
There’s always something around the corner which is destined to decisively shake one’s certainties; Stelzer and Murray portray the concern for the unforeseeable in ways that few other practitioners in this sector can equal.