Plinth is the solo endeavour of Michael Tanner, who is also a member of the Dorset Paeans Collective (dorsetpaeans.org.uk) and the A. Lords (which have a wonderful new cdr due out soon on Barl Fire) amongst others. As the title suggests, all the music featured on this cdr was entirely created from music played by Victorian machines.
Between 2004 and 2005, Tanner gathered recordings from a variety of sources : vinyl, cassette archives, internet resources as well as his own recordings. In addition, he made sure surface noises and other machine sounds could be heard, all of them becoming an integral part of the music. He then set up to initiate a series of unpredictable dialogues between the recordings/ sounds he carefully selected and chose to let them do the talking instead of exercising total control over them.
Tanner explains: ?The process tended to differ from track to track, but my favourite thing to do was take a snippet of melody from an old music box and play it back against say, a collection of notes from a parlour bell machine. This resulted in creating an entirely new melody altogether, and one that wasn't pre-planned or specific. It was if the machines were playing themselves.? As you can guess, the results are simply stunning ? lovely, yet unsettling at times.
No doubt, Tanner excels at evoking the atmosphere of a bygone era ? a process which, of course, operates on the most fantastical level as these sounds may resonate quite differently in our minds. Plinth thus ?plays? machine music ? using musical box and other carnival-like tunes as raw material ? but it also plays with our sense of memory through the constant recontextualizations these elements are constantly subjected to.
What strikes me every time I play this cdr is the sheer delicacy and dreamlike nature of the music. There?s this whole tapestry of more or less loosely-bound melodies and ghostly textures that never exhaust their mysterious powers. Sometimes, there are moments that may recall the sound-world of C?cile Schott aka Colleen, although a closer listen reveals a different kind of approach altogether, at least to my ears.
Right, the melodies do not necessarily follow a song-like structure. Sometimes, only fragments of them are actually surfacing. But this doesn?t make up for the fragile poetry that you will find here. True, the choosen medium (a three-inch cdr) makes the experience all the more concise in its overall scope and the ?collage? method is deliberately unconventional (only one piece of software was used for the sole purpose of editing the tunes), but there is something here that just cannot be fully grasped into words.
I may venture to write that, like Vashti Bunyan?s oft-misunderstood lullabies, the music of Plinth is able to create a singular climate that offers as much a safe haven as a more acute awareness of the dangers that may surround us. Consequently, the dreamlike quality of the music mentioned just above is not merely lovely-sounding and it is a tribute to Tanner?s unique experimental edge to make us hear other ?unexpected? voices in-between the tunes themselves.
To my mind, these darker overtones are a full part of the fabric of this work and although they?re not overwhelming in any way, their presence is quietly upsetting.
Again, this may all be woven from the stuff that dreams are made of, but there?s a reality going on here too, and it will be as joyful, lively and sad as you want it to be. It?s also a perfect example of how ?free? music can be, as it starts to behave like an organic entity that ?plays? along with its creator(s) and develop the ability to change the way we actually listen ? all this without even our realizing it. A true gem, indeed... 10/10 -- Francois Hubert (7 August, 2006)