Review: Staubitz and Waterhouse – Staubitz and Waterhouse (Gertrude Tapes, Feb 17)

Mary Staubitz and Russ Waterhouse’s first release as a duo, a lathe cut 7″ on Gertrude Tapes, is pretty much over as soon as it starts, a brief and concise ten minutes of elusive sound. But strangely, our experience of time during each listen is not nearly as cut-and-dry; the two artists manage to elicit a strong feeling of stasis and permanence in these two short pieces, trapping the listener in comfortable yet subtly sinister ennui extracts that defy our typical conceptions, like the unpredictable, unexplainable temporal distortions that occur during a university class or a shift at work. Plagued by heavily amplified rustles, chewing, and an ongoing churn of heavily processed environmental sound, the sonic scenery of “Pickup for Mark” plots itself with fractured verbal exchanges and ringing telephones. Here, we are both invisible observer and conspicuous trespasser, aware that the events taking place are not caused by ours—or even the artists’—presence, yet keenly cognizant of the jagged, imperfect opening through which we have entered this soundscape, the perceptible seams that expose its artificiality. “Exterior Scroll” is even less concrete, as lo-fi recordings of clattering, cascading junk and other objects disrupt the natural hum of the outdoors and the distant sound of human voices. Staubitz and Waterhouse is one of those modest, unassuming releases that doesn’t make a big deal about itself, but the questions we inevitably ask in deciphering the knotty quandaries it presents are anything but inconsequential.

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