Tongue Depressor & Weston Olencki – Don’t Tell No Tales Upon Us
3.13.23 by Matty McPherson
Dinzu Artefacts continues batch processing and curating of the highest magnitude. New titles in the month of February have been making their way to the hi-fi. In between bouts of anime and Bandcamp tape filing (have you ever tried to catalog DIY tapes? It’s sort of impossible! And you can’t make entries on the mobile app! Flop-ass software!), I have been giving late night samples. The three this month are deep longforms. Two are pushing near or past the hour mark. If there’s anything I’ve noted about a Dinzu Artefacts bundle, it’s that the variety with time often means either the LONGEST or the SHORTEST tape of the month is highlight; a most unusual circumstance akin to picking sticks. This time, I find myself most enamored with the latest from the Tongue Depressor duo & their collaboration with Weston Olencki; a brevity-laden affair of drone harmonics. The kind that glistens at the witching hour and ignite a strange set of surrealist mantras and images to go inward, before returning outward with force.
Henry Birdesy and Zach Rowden are longtime conspirators, with ties down the New England coast and with Crazy Doberman, amongst a longstanding career of dronery as Tongue Depressor. Birdsey’s career across a magnitude of labels, monikers, and instrumentation has seen him develop a rather strange beckoning towards a kind of land-art induced gospel for masses between 1 to a few dozen folks. For the two piece, Birdsey turns to Bagpipes & Rowden takes up Bass. Meanwhile, the South Carolina born, Berlin-based Olencki brings out Trombone. Try to make sense of this formation, it’s not supposed to be a crystal clear harmony in ultraviolet you may tell.
The trio both enforce and reject the roles of their respective instruments. Side A’s Tapping Season is perhaps TD and Olencki’s standard MO. Tongue Depressor create a blackened tar of a drone, with a viscosity thick as imperial stout. The bagpipes harmonize with a thrilling electricity to their harmonics, an all out assault bolstered by the bass! Olencki takes to the wall of sound and attempts to find a place to scowl and grovel with the trombone, creating a cracks across the surface of the piece. You can opt to follow the noise or lay awash in the drone and strike a pre-conscious image from there.
If Death Be Printed On His Face opens the palette outward instead of the intense inward focus of Side A. There’s droning cassette loops that are plague-stricken and gloomed amongst a flicker of water. Coils and sawblades, even creaky gates(!) rummage amongst the wastes of this soundscape, rustling and looming omnipotently. It recalls the bad-acid psychedelic beaches that have come to define Bill Nace’s 2020s works, or gloomscapes of Arvo Zylo and German Army. A banjo is summoned, but so taken out of its immediate sonic properties it only adds to the apocalypse of the b-side; it sounds closer to pedal steel wobbling and budging through a stomachache. When you do zoom out of the piece, considering the slow lumbers of it’s movement instead of the moment-by-moment blows that make it a hat trick of a sprawling piece, it’s clear to see that the trio was creating an inverse to the drone of their first half; especially when it strips itself halfway through to open those stringed drones. There’s an aching beauty to that back half I’ve found. The kind that document the emotions of a cowboy who’s “too old for this shit” and wants to ride off into the sunset, but also knows that with the heat-death of the sun approaching sooner and sooner, it’s just more convenient to soak in the moment. Nothing cruel about it, just ruthless pragmatism.
And that’s what perhaps makes the trio’s release so damn rewarding and the highlight of the the Dinzu Artefacts batch. It cuts to the heart of the label’s strange tightrope walk between “free jazz” and “free field recordings”; the grey area/no man’s land where soundscapes exist as small zones to contemplate feelings that aren’t exactly compressible nor can be abstracted. They’re just experienced like old tales from times long ago.
Limited Edition of 200 Available Now at the Dinzu Artefacts Bandcamp!