Karen Gwyer - I've Been You Twice
This is the second entry in Kaleidoscope's ongoing "limited dubs" project, where artists drape effects onto their music as it's recorded directly to tape. Only thirteen copies of Karen Gwyer's I've Been You Twice will ever exist. Each one is unique, special - and sold, so none of us will ever hear one.
What we can listen to, though, are the original digital masters, which Kaleidoscope are giving away for free. Track one is 'No Moondoggies For 3 Weeks', a series of modulating tones, wordless vocals and clipped percussion. It's not ambient, and it's not catchy. It's neither extro, or introverted. The overall effect is like overhearing a party at your neighbour's house. The music and conversation come through the wall, but not clearly. You can't go and join in, but you can't retreat, either.
'Shermer Shake' uses similar ingredients in a such more subtle way. It takes a little longer to build up, but the texture it reaches four minutes in is smoother, friendlier, and much easier to swallow.
The last couple of songs on this 4-track EP sink even further down, abandoning percussion entirely. 'Infernal Selection' mixes a distant, blurred melody with mysterious buzzes and underwater vocals. The whole thing is tied pleasingly together with an inconspicuous, but persistent bassline. It's the most affecting piece of music here, but this leads to a new problem.
The more ambient Karen Gwyer gets, the more like her contemporaries she becomes. All of sudden she has to compete with the impossibly beautiful work of such genre leaders as Grouper. Should Gwyer stick to her apparent strengths, and make more reverb-heavy ambience - even if the result sounds less unique? Or should she press on with a more obtuse, but singular approach?
The answer may be contained in the last song, 'Velvet Gambit', which forgoes percussion but not rhythm. Or, perhaps the answer is instead held within one of those thirteen special cassettes, which might be completely different to this. We'll never know.