Review: Nick Keeling & Kaily Moon Schenker – Marker (Torn Light, Jan 8)

This tape came out quite a bit earlier in the year, but I only recently got my hands on it; it was a physical-only release and Torn Light was sold out of copies. However, I had the opportunity to see this duo perform some live improvisations last Saturday, and was able to pick up Marker at the merch table. It’s the first and possibly only collaboration between musician/sound artist Nick Keeling and classically trained cellist Kaily Schenker, and is mainly composed of improvisational pieces with cello, piano, vibraphone, and 8-track tapes. Needless to say, both artists are tremendously skilled at their respective instruments, but the real treat here is the evolution of Keeling’s tape work, which is more developed than ever before. He uses a custom-built system of three modified 8-track machines, the tape circling in an infinite loop in and out of each, allowing for live manipulation of both his and Schenker’s playing. The dusty stutter of the imperfect loops blends incredibly well with the sounds coming from the actual instruments, giving Marker a unique, fragile beauty that is only extended by its exclusive presentation on cassette. I’ve been told it can be purchased from Thousands of Dead Gods’ Discogs page despite not being listed.