Review: Fletcher Pratt – Rituals for Magnetic Tape Vol. 1 (Never Anything, Feb 3)

With Rituals for Magnetic Tape Vol. 1, Oakland-based sound artist Fletcher Pratt evokes the spectral compositions of early tape music pioneers such as Xenakis and Ferrari, with a distinctly modern element of improvisational fluidity. “Ritual 1,” the sole track on the tape, adopts an approach faithful to the original principle of musique concrète—that is, everyday sounds and noises are transformed into something new and unrecognizable. Pratt’s skillful spindle work largely obscures his (probably) wide range of sound sources, molding and melding raw recordings to produce ghostly drones, synthetic pulses, and virtuosic blasts of frenetic blips. There isn’t a single part of “Ritual 1” that sounds anything close to organic, but it is far from feeling detached or sterile. Pratt manipulates his auditory arsenal like an urgent sculptor, raising abstract yet physical constructions from suspenseful silence. It really does sound like a ritual of some sort (though not one that I’ve ever seen); most of the elements are quite percussive, and the way each is sequenced or combined with the others is where the piece draws its mysterious energy. Rituals for Magnetic Tape Vol. 1 is both a breath of fresh air and a reminder of everything great about the early stages of these widely used techniques. I really hope that this tape being subtitled “volume 1” is an indicator that there will be many more installments.