Genre: Experimental / Educational / Unconventional
A1) HAARP 891
B1) Variation 52
B2) Oram Bell
B3) Ionospheric Test Patterns
Orbless is one of two solo aliases of experimental / noise artist Collin McKelvey, with the other being Slaughtering Dolphins. Orbless seems to have been the more successful of the two, albeit by a slim margin, having a release on Mars Pyramid, a split with Chen Santa Maria on Accidie Records sublabel Gifts Nobody Wants, and this, a C30 tape on Brookyln-based Fabrica Records. Of course, this really only scratches the surface of Collin’s involvement in experimental sound. There is the trio of GAZE which includes Ned Meiners and Corey Hucks whom recently released a tape on Teen Action Records, and the little known project Liminal Planes which seems to have only released music via McKelvey’s own label Beach House Records. When referring too ‘underground’ sound artists, this is about as real as it gets. Small labels, little known artists, no unimportant goals hindering their writing other than the incessant need to create.
This tape, Spinning Liquid Mirror, is highly influenced by research in several different areas of the scientific spectrum. McKelvey himself notes that the tape is “influenced by research into planetary harmonics, phenomenological frequencies and zero point energy systems. Thus, it seems that Orbless perhaps is the perfect word to really describe the sound that McKelvey generates. There aren’t any spherical drones here, nothing that implies a voyage or spiritual journey of any kind. There is no floating amongst the gas giants. Instead, we have a piercing system of tiding blips and oscillations, and, at times, nearly rhythmic noise. Side A, or HAARP in its entirety, represents this side of Orbless best. There is no tempo, just a steadily evolving work of sound. Its unclear whether HAARP is McKelvey’s own personal venture into high frequency active auroral research through his own creation, or whether he’s taken actual frequencies from the program for use in his own project, but the sound that comes along with the track, with the power of suggestion, does incorporate images of air force test operators and radio waves disrupting the ionosphere. The track contains perhaps the strangest moment that I’ve personally experienced from any experimental tape in that through the range of frequencies that McKelvey unleashed, they eventually evolved and broke down into a span of roughly a minute or longer that virtually recreated an array of bird chirps. It no longer sounded of blips but rather static, fuzzed-out background with Earthly life surrounding it. Though this wasn’t implied nor intended, it brings up obvious philosophical connotations.
Side B is certainly thicker sounding and, at times, even modestly musical, especially regarding the tracks Oram Bell and Ionospheric Test Patterns, where there are melodic patterns though they don’t make any sense when in relation to any kind of scale. Orbless has been experimenting on this release with self-generated looping patches, so the sound comes off as fractal for obvious reasons. It begins, develops, evolves, and ends, whether it is experienced as strange, wonderful, or mathematical is all due to the perception of the listener, and is half of the interest regarding releases like this one. It’s not a pleasant experience — this sound isn’t meant to be anywhere near ear candy. But if you sit down and just experience it, it should at least get your neurons flickering a bit.
Despite the fact that this release may very well be serious in its scientific exploration, there seems to be a hint of tongue-in-cheek inside humor hiding away in the background of this release. I can’t tell whether its the overt interest in the HAARP program and its tests on the ionosphere and the obvious paranoid reaction from conspiracy theorists regarding the subject or not. That just goes to show you though that these releases that focus on unconventional sound are often more enjoyable for the composer on the experimental level, but completely capable of giving the listener something unintentionally off-topic to think about. If you’re an artist and you’re doing something like this regarding experiments, you have a J-card. Use it. The listener will often want to know what you were working with and trying to achieve.
Rating: No rating given due to the educational / scientific nature of the release.