Cassilda and Carcosa produce a soulful piece of braindance on the playful and passionate “Tubes Transformers Transistors & Tape”. Forgoing the usual cut and paste techniques of so many loopers of odd time signatures they go for a raw visceral energy. They make this full-bodied, living breathing sound possible through the strict adherence to analog technology. All the wonderful sounds are fully engaging thanks to their tireless efforts with items like the acidic Digitone, the Korg Prologue 8, and the Sequentix Cirklon. If that last one sounds familiar, it is due to Aphex Twin’s usage, with some of the songs off his “Cheetah EP” being named directly after the piece of equipment.
Stylistically Cassilda and Carcosa adhere to a strict adherence to the old-school IDM aesthetic. The differentiator “old-school” is paramount. After the early, halcyon days of Warp Records’ and Rephlex’s first releases, the genre became something of a “looped wonky time signature” variety. Individuals with laptops could essentially manipulate anything easily, incorporate some drum programming and call it a day. With “Tubes Transformers Transistors & Tape” Cassilda and Carcosa deftly avoid this pratfall. Forgoing Steve Albini’s critique that “the music became more and more about the novelty of certain sounds and treatments, ridiculously trivial aspects like tempo and choice of samples, and the public personae of the makers. It became a race to novelty” Cassilda and Carcosa embark on painstaking work to get everything in the arrangements just right. It all blends together in a swirling, kaleidoscopic mix one that fully and completely wraps around the listener.
One of the most joyous aspects of the sound comes from its embrace of funk within the sound. To do this within the confines of hardware sequencers, old tape machines, analog synths and circuit-bent FM synths feels outright incredible. Funk is one of those tricky genres; do it wrong and the sound can easily get oversaturated, even devolve into outright noise. Everything within “Tubes Transformers Transistors & Tape” possesses its own funky rhythm. Beats are crucial but even more important are the ways the acid lines are sculpted. Done with so much care, these synthesizers and tapes are very clearly loved and cared for in a way that simply feels marvelous.
A whole slew of artists come to the forefront within these tracks. Since there is a clear love for early funk, the inevitable inspirations come from early Squarepusher’s bass-heavy early records to the playful hypnotic grooves of Luke Vibert’s Wagon Christ moniker. Like those two, the emphasis on the groove over all else gives the sound a certain elastic quality, as if the sounds are stretched and warped beyond reproach. By far though the clearest influence is Richard James, whose deft ability to infuse groove and melody on his acid-focused AFX efforts proves to be the closest comparison. Many of the pieces found on this album at times touch upon AFX’s Analord singles – taut, compact, and with a degree of dexterity that much of IDM only dreams of. Throughout the album the themes and melodies emerge in new, fantastic ways. Drenched, and I mean drenched, in pure acid shows how thoughtful acid techno can be when handled the right way.
Melodies possess their own child-like sense of wonder with the world. They swirl around with a slight hint of the psychedelic, nicely dovetailing into the UK’s “Second Summer of Love” vis-à-vis their emphasis on the texture of sound. Layer upon layer gets brought into the mix yet their insistence on balance proves to be paramount. Never do these tracks get cluttered they maintain a bright, crystal clear pastoral bliss about them. In spite of their obvious electronic origins, Cassilda and Carcosa tap into the very soul of these machines bringing them to life in such a kind, respectful way.
“FM Acid Funk” starts the album off with so much gusto. Unfolding with so much care the bass line is exceptional, twisting and contorting itself in wild unpredictable ways. With a live feel, the way that the whole track evolves gives it a funhouse mirror level of distortion. The tribal spirit of “No Masks?!” features incredible work on the Korg Prologue 8, alongside that fantastic tribal percussion. Melody in particular is accentuated from the clever usage of the Elektron Analog RYTM Mk2 and Elektron Digitone in creating a spirit of discovery that informs the whole of the work. One of the highlights of the album appears early with the simply gorgeous toy box aura of “The Prophets’ Paradise”. Harking back to early Boards of Canada (Music Has the Right to Children era) output the whole of the piece scales back the beats for a simple pastoral beauty, one that radiates with so much airiness. A flirtation of the dance floor happens with “The Yellow Sign” which features an incredible beat workout courtesy of the Elektron Analog Rytm mk2 giving it a satisfying, retro spirit. One can almost sense the spirit of late 80s house within the minimal yet effective grooves, even touching upon LFO’s debut EPs.
The palette cleansing “Intermission” sets the tone for the spacy, komische music influenced latter half. Lush reverb via the Quadraverb gives “The Repairer of Reputations” a soothing, dream-like quality. Quite touching, the tenderness of the track results in a virtual panoply of various percussive elements that nicely filter into the mix, sounding surprisingly crisp and tactile. Such fragile funk races through “Lymphoma Funk”. Everything about it, from the slow buildup to its eventual burst of acidic keys feels particularly satisfying. By far though the most spacious and ambitious piece is saved for last. Cascading textures make “Cloudwaves (business_object vs. C&C)” a tremendous joy. Neatly replicating the ebb and flow of waves crashing on the shore, the multi-suite harmonically dense work requires multiple deep listens to fully appreciate. Even within the most experimental moments of the track they opt for a unique sonic origami as sounds fold and unfold into each other.
With the powerful “Tubes Transformers Transistors & Tape” Cassilda and Carcosa craft a classic, timeless sound, one that sidesteps easy categorization and trends to become something truly unique in the aural universe.