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Dead Voices on Air – 20th Anniversary Collaboration Series Vol. I-III

Once upon a time, projects that were meant to pay tribute to an artist’s past accomplishments were simple, be it a nice tribute album with covers from various minions in a jewel case or otherwise.  However, this new series from the kind gentleman behind Houston’s Tourette Records heralds a new type of tribute — one where rather than attempt to follow a path already laid, well-known artists whose respect was earned will collaborate with the one whom the tribute is directed at over a successive line of releases.  In this case, Mark Spybey’s Dead Voices on Air, which formed after his departure from Zoviet France in the late 80’s, has reached its 20th anniversary, and in those two decades of droning experimentalism and eclectic improvisation, he has reached many ears and drawn many souls to his unique style of composition and performance.  This doesn’t even begin to touch on his complete biography that spans over 80 releases and fifteen full-lengths, but it is clear that through his collaborative work in the past, he has touched many people, many of whom will be participating in this series as it comes closer to its inevitable conclusion.  Here, we will cover the first trio of releases in the series that involves collaborations with Simon Fisher Turner, Edward Ka-spel (The Legendary Pink Dots), and Robin Storey (Rapoon).  Future releases will feature collaborations from artists such as Troum, Jochen Arbeit (Einstürzende Neubauten), cEvin Key (Skinny Puppy / Download) and more

The first record in this series is the collaboration with Simon Fisher Turner whom, in addition to performing as “The King of Luxembourg” and several other obscure aliases, has spent much of his music career on Mute Records and even last year released an album entitled “The Great White Silence” on Soleilmoon Recordings whom have been known for their work with everyone from The Legendary Pink Dots to Rapoon, Merzbow, Lustmor, Muslimgauze, and Daniel Menche.  Spybey and Simon met backstage at a Can concert in London in 1999 and have since worked together under the moniker “MzMzLaLaLa”, hence the reference in the name.  Side A, “For Peace”, begins as projected — in a peaceful fashion — featuring a gentle, but oppressive drone underneath a calm piano melody.  The drone eventually swells in line with the piano movement in a tidal fashion, eventually pulling back just to be cut out by static-ridden, inaudible samples that abruptly come into existence and fade out before reappearing in collage of fractured sounds.  Eventually a rhythmic industrial percussive structure invades the track, and once cut, the track fades away as gently as it began.  Side B is more calm as a whole, featuring a gentle drone back-drop with minimal guitar upper-chord strumming and vocals from Turner that are difficult to discern.  A ring-tone sample also makes a strange entrance, interfering with the overall melancholic mood of the track which, in some introverted personal way, I’m sure is exactly the point.

The second record features the monolithic Edward Ka-spel, known as a co-founder of The Legendary Pink Dots and for his incredible solo releases on labels from Beta-lactam Ring Records to Soleilmoon.  This record also features Spanish guitarist/bassist Oscar Ruiz Fernandez, and Carolyn Gannell on cello.  Ka-spel met Spybey in Vancouver, Canada and invited Spybey to record with him on a the Tear Garden record — The Tear Garden of course being well-known in it’s own right as the collaborative project of Ka-spel and cEvin Key (Skinny Puppy).  After recording the track, in 2000, Spybey toured in support of The Legendary Pink Dots.  The track opens abruptly with a cavernous drone that quickly fades out as quickly as it came into being.  In that silence, it can be heard flickering in the distance before making a return as a hive of sound, supported by flickering spherical sound that quickly builds and disappears.  The track takes a rather — comparatively — traditional form past this with Ka-spels signature dreary vocals coming in commanding “let X be Y, let 6 be 9” on top of Spybey’s straight-forward machine-like drumming.  Experimental noise comes in line with Spybey’s percussive rhythms, giving the track a slight psych tendency, only to have it all reach a climax and collapse under the weight of the building levels of sound.  Side B opens much the same way, but is quite the different sound in its approach.  Again, gentle electronic drones line the bottom layer of the track while Ka-spel’s lyrics come in, with piano this time being the instrument of choice for Spybey.  This is much less of a structured track and more of an ambient interlude over top of Ka-spel’s low, nearly indiscernible spoken word that loops over throughout the track as if an apparition repeating its memory in the present.

Robin Storey is also a name that should need no introduction, especially in terms of the meaning of this series as he was a co-founder of Zoviet France and thus his relationship to Mark Spybey should be obvious.  Both also continue to record together outside of this collaboration under the moniker “Reformed Faction”, or as they were known for a very short time with Andy Eardley, “The Reformed Faction of Soviet France”.  That initial album was eventually changed to “Vota” with the project name change.  This is perhaps the ‘darkest’ of the three records, featuring the cold ambiance that Rapoon has become known for in his more Earthly-themed tracks with electro-acoustic experimentation and industrial metallic scraping.  Minimal sampling and multiple deep drones that barely register as being there make up the low-end of the first track.  Trace elements of Rapoon’s ethno-influences can be heard in sparse segments towards the end of the first track while deeply-embedded blips give the underlying drones character.  The second track is more minimal, initially beginning with a drone that focuses on deep clanking chimes that come together like clockwork and gears. That portion wastes no time evaporating though, leaving behind a lawn-mower buzz that is backed by smoothly-moving gears or other low-end sounds.  When the buzz cuts, we’re left with groaning, creaking throat tones that writhe under the eventual reformation and swell of the buzz, as it hits its climax and ends the track.

Every release in this series is a piece of art in itself, with the sleeves being designed by David Babbitt and the art commissioned by Paul Bilger.  The vinyl itself is a heavy-grade and each sleeve has a unique clear coating in which sections are held out to create the Dead Voices on Air logo as well as the collaborator information, the latter of which is more visible in a glare. The quality and limitation of these releases makes them immediately collectable to any lover of vinyl and the ambient genres present.  Keep an eye out though, as the last release in this series will be sent out with a box specifically made to house every seven-inch in the collection.  If you miss out on one, good luck finding it again down the road.  When names like cEvin Key and Jochen Arbeit begin hitting the Tourette shop list, they’re not expected to last long.

Rating: 5/5

Written by: Sage
Artist: Dead Voices on Air  & Simon Fisher Turner 
Dead Voices on Air & Edward Ka-spel 
Dead Voices on Air & Robin Storey 
Title: MzMzLaLaLa / The Bowles Given / With an Ear and a Why
Label: Tourette Records 
Cat. #: TOURETTE 025 / 026 / 027
Format: 7″ (3 separate releases)

7″ #1:  Simon Fisher Turner & Dead Voices on Air
Side A: MzMzLaLaLa – For Peace
Side B: MzMzLaLaLa – Sing-song-sing

7″ #2:  Edward Ka-spel & Dead Voices on Air
Side A: The Bowles Given – Self-loathing by Numbers
Side B: The Bowles Given – On Air

7″ #3:  Robin Storey & Dead Voices on Air
Side A: With an Ear and a Why
Side B: With a Why and an Ear

Note:  These three seven-inch collaborations are SEPARATE RELEASES.  They are not packaged together in any way, and are being reviewed together for continuity purposes.

Genre:  Dark Ambient / Drone / Experimental / Post-industrial