Tape 08 - Howes - Cold Storage

by Howes

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Recorded between 2015 and 2018 in Salford

"Overcast and dubbed-out ambient music perfect for the winter months, from the latest Cong Burn tape by label founder Howes—for fans of Strategy or Actress. " Resident Advisor

"Fresh from the murky territories of Salford is this tape suite from producer Howes. Cold Storage has a greyish vibe, but it ain’t just some drones. Parts of this tape sound like a cheap, dubbed-out version of Rashad Becker’s imagining of alien worlds: like there is a Martian swamp living inside the cassette." Norman Records

"Cong Burn boss and northern english artist John Howes presents the spongiform, greyscale modular extractions of ’Cold Storage’ as the first full length album on his own label - home to releases by Lanark Artefax, Perfume Advert and Chekov, a.o. Recorded at his Salford studio in 2018, ’Cold Storage’ finds Howes paring his music back to the barest essentials of small, textured sounds drifting in abstract dub space.

Functionally titled A1 thru B4, the 8 pieces are smudged into an amorphous flow of weightless pressure systems and gently reactive atomic collisions with an immersively natural, mercurial quality." Boomkat

"Mancunian musician John Howes continues to quietly wade into the unknown dubby waters last heard on his previous untitled solo full-length (reviewed by this column in 2017). Unlike his far dancier 12" releases, Cold Storage comprises ambient hardware jams, seemingly recorded relatively spontaneously and late at night. Howes sets his odd little sonic dioramas up, then pokes around like a kid with tweezers, tugging them in and out of shape. It’s a familiar MO in the home-synth scene, but Howes’ crystalline and otherworldly recordings are notably nuanced and refined.

The sonic palette here is a stark one, but it’s buoyed by unpredictable swirls of bass leering out of the void. The surface tension is barely present, the foreground populated by glitchy sonic dabs, filtered pads and dulled bleeps, but plunge deep into each piece and you’ll reap psychologically potent rewards. The first side closes finding bliss in claustrophobia, conjuring a creaking blend of slightly moaning percussive hits and haunted synths, giving way to a handful of sparse beats puncturing the tension. There’s a distinctive depth and internal logic to Howes’ music that makes it a place well worth revisiting.

The results are equally comparable to uon’s hypnagogic subtleties as the fluoro grey decay of Actress productions, dwelling on the liminal point between iterative process and haptic tactility, offering himself as the conduit or fleshy medium for the machines to speak thru. Quite luckily, the ghosts in his machines all have a charming, frothy story to regale in ‘Cold Storage’." The Quietus

"Howes’ ‘Cold Storage‘ begins like a religious ceremony. As wavering, distant tones gently mutate and reform into a voltaic, crackling buzz, a monotone pulse sounds at stately intervals, like a gong announcing the long-awaited commencement of some obscure and solemn ritual. Listening to the record almost feels like stumbling across such an occasion: observing unprepared and uninitiated the private creative rituals of an artist communing with sound, witnessing unbidden an event both profound and unintelligible.

Salford-based producer John Howes records abstract, generative music on cassette tape using a modular set-up, and his brief but exploratory discography has seen him traverse the border between individualist dance music and expressive sound art with ease. Though he has some background in club-focused recordings, the majority of ‘Cold Storage‘ is free-form and experimentalist, the sound of an artist exploring his tools and their exponential capabilities.

His music shares a vision with artists like Actress and James Holden, producers that gesture towards the idioms of the club, loosely sketching its rhythms, only to repurpose them in the service of more abstruse and personal ends.

“04” is an exercise in tension and suspense, recalling the hyper-minimalist approach of Pole and Klaus while hinting at the limitless space and subterranean resonance of early dubstep. “05” builds on this, threading a distorted lead through ephemeral textures and modular glitch work to produce something not far removed from Blawan and Pariah’s work as Karenn. Three minutes in, there’s an unexpected pause, before the elements regroup to form a jagged, mid-tempo bruiser that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 2012 SUNKLO release.

The rest of ‘Cold Storage‘ is far harder to place. Many tracks feel like fractured puzzles, impossible to put together, with warped percussion, spectral oscillations and analogue scribbles often competing for the listener’s attention. Melodies appear, but are deeply fragmented, tripping over themselves in patterns that defy identification. There’s a liminality, a sense of “between”, that permeates the record in both style and approach – it hovers between genres, between composition and improvisation, between order and disarray.

Howes is unfazed by demands for structure or symmetry, recording music that’s experimental in the word’s most direct sense: you feel as if you’re hearing him experiment in real time, using synth patches like Jackson Pollock’s paintbrush, throwing frequencies at the canvas and seeing what sticks. It’s a mesmeric chaos, and despite its apparent formlessness, it rarely feels random or unconsidered, just weird, cryptic, and at times, beautiful.

The paradox of abstract music is that it can be at once deeply personal, rich with feeling and emotion, while expressing nothing concrete. With numbered tracks and a succinct title, ‘Cold Storage‘ seems without reference, a series of sounds seemingly left to speak for themselves. Yet at its finest moments, the album points towards hidden depths, wells of inchoate meaning that speak volumes without saying anything at all.

“03” is a sonic sculpture, a study of two materials: one pad sound, infinitely deep and enveloping, is contrasted against the luminous shimmer of another as the sounds shift and regress, folding together like impossible shapes in an alien geometry. “07” floats garbled arpeggios in a phantom analogue ether, before giving way to the album’s final and most affecting moment. A cluster of empyrean tones, a vast and interminable chord that floats like a slow-moving cloud over a darkened plain, stretching across the horizon and casting a faint and spectral glow. This is a sound not to understand, not to analyse, but to fall into, or sit beneath in awe." Inverted Audio


released February 11, 2019


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Cong Burn UK

howes / haddon / l. pearson / perfume advert / lanark artefax / lack / chekov / bftt / remote_ / carlos / a new lined (related) / amxd / anxiety support group / duckett / flaty

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