Mechanical Bull – Reach Out and Touch It
10.31.22 by Matty McPherson
Personal Archives + Free Jazz. A measured, frequent, and often frantic power duo. February brought us one such result, Nathan Corder and Sean Hamilton’s duo configuration, Mechanical Bull. Reach Out and Touch It is not so much a dare, more a prerogative when you consider the tape’s unrelenting wit. The duo each tease each other out to forecast an inspired wavelength outside field recordings and anti-minimalist compositions.
Corder and Hamilton aren’t so much a noise duo as much as practitioner-class soundsmiths. Hamilton’s radio work sees him finding comfort in squiggles and ticklish fuzz that’s more playful than aggressive. Its not always this way–with classic wombo comboed-style duo cuts that analyze noise via chipper punk fury or craven haptic claustrophobia. In fact, a good chunk of side A runs with Hamilton’s sparse yet precise guitar scowls–hushed, eerie wails that give a tense detailing to Corder’s frenzied metallic brushings; those sounds of “metal pieces” + maracas can be so tantalizing). When Hamilton wants to do it though, he can tease out his own squiggly rudiments of chords, kinds that bounce off the ramshackle almost-pitter patters of Corder’s drums. When these elements meet across side A and B in their respective tracks, they make for a special kind of art-damaged porch jam. Side B’s variant in particular, has an unnerved and wonky dimension.
Even with splices and delineations, it’s a natural point A to B adventure. Side A starts with your usual free-noise and jazz banter: feedback, near-drums, noise–the tentpoles of why you bought this tape. Then, “Negotiations” takes us out to a caterwauling porch jam, airy and tense. Both ends meet in the epic “Sights Upon the Mesa” longform that wraps up Side A. It’d be an insurmountable job to describe the beast, but if you must know then just imagine a drone in its panopticon-esque form. Hamilton obsesses over that soundscape, particularly the hissy kind that comes out of CCTV cameras when disconnected, slowly growing more grimey. It’s ample space for Corder to test small tickles and prickles of a detuned guitar. Of course though, a direction will take shape that turns into an almost-jam in the middle. The final third sees Hamilton’s drums aping towards their most steamy, layered final form. It usurps the drone, taking on a tumultuous, wavy form that seeks to envelop Corder’s guitar–which by the end of the longform sounds of a flashlight quickly flickering to the end.
Side B adds onto the dimensions of claustrophobia found within side A, while providing a greater sense of movement and distance from their “porch jams”. Those aforementioned lovelies do strike the opening with the one two of “A Curious Fellow” and “MDSF” (and “Livery” down the line). Both though are just quick double shots for the chaser of “Signals Unearthed” & “Trail By Night.” Corder seems to attack a series of various objects across the two (including his radios and what sounds of a saw blade), as the microphone picks up a mutated distillation of an unkempt brooding; its to Hamton’s credit he can be restrained enough to use his guitar like a piece of sly coordination–sparse cuts that signify an end to the piece. “Seeing Through It” finds both building vast suspense from their haphazard improv lockstep; radios return with pulp dimensionality and surveillance-worth drone. Itself a perfect, razory climax, where guitar chords sound of droning strings as much as scheming glances. A true amalgamation of daze works through, gliding towards the duo’s tenacious closer “When I see it…” Here we find Hamilton throwing his hat in the ring for a bout of quiet, meditative “guitar-drone”, a kindly brethren to Corder’s percussive sound bowl swagger. For both, it’s a kindly ending, having run a delightful gambit of improvisation sleights; noise waves with incandescent frequencies.
Edition of 50 Professionally duplicated and printed cassette, with white shell with black ink pad print.
2-sided 3-panel j-card in Norelco case, includes a download card. Available at the Personal Archives Bandcamp