Review: Karl Fousek – Early Miniatures (self-released, Aug 12)

I have a thing for albums with a sketchbook-like structure: loosely connected fragments and half-developed ideas that create a singular atmosphere. I especially appreciate them when they take the form of demo or archival releases from artists I already know and enjoy, grateful for a look behind the curtain of sorts. I’ve slowly begun encountering the respective solo catalogs of the members of electroacoustic trio Fousek / Hansen / Tellier-Craig, and this time I have the opportunity to observe the early experimentation of synth wizard Karl Fousek, who has completed a host of solo projects since these recordings were made in 2013, including Another Use for Time, a full-length from earlier this year that I have not yet heard. Early Miniatures was originally released in 2014 as Cassette Miniatures Vol. 1, but a retrospective reworking sees them fresh and newly available in 2020, a timeless archive of abstract, effervescent electronica that bubbles with organic fervor. Like his contributions to the aforementioned trio, the textures conjured here are distinctly analog, each lethargic arpeggiator tangle or lively feedback loop full of lush, swampy wetness, helped along by classic tape-delay techniques and the complementary fidelity of the cassette onto which they were directly recorded. Fousek states that “this was the first time that I felt like I’d found my own voice playing the modular,” and it shows; I’m not 100% sure that the numbering of the pieces corresponds to the order in which they were created, but regardless, one can observe a gradual unfurling of increased diversity and agility as the release progresses, perhaps culminating with “15” and “18,” my favorites and probably the most queasily beautiful of the bunch.

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