Review: Unknown Artist – Campfire Tales (Tribe Tapes, Oct 14)

Releasing your work anonymously—and, by extension, all degrees of personal/authorial removal, whether it is credited to an artist or not—is an artistic decision in itself, with its own benefits and drawbacks. The main issue one encounters is that pretty much all of us, being human, want to feel emotion from things, and for most of us, being lovers of humans, instinctively want to see or hear or feel the creator come through in their creations. But unclaimed collages like Sensitivity Training and this pleasingly spooky sample suite from an unknown source on Tribe Tapes have proven to me that not only does the lack of an attributed arranger have a palpable effect on the material, but it also functions differently for different works. While Sensitivity Training bypasses both the grotesque indulgence and the unethical exploitation of Buyer’s Market—in part due to its anonymity and in part due to the much more compassionate and purposeful compiling—to open the gates for true emotion and empathy, the half-campy, half-unsettling tales, tunes, and textures of Campfire Tales gain a complementary obscurity from the omission, and with the saturated black ink xeroxed onto orange paper the album becomes something intoxicatingly mysterious. The ordering of the sounds sounds both episodic and cohesive somehow, as bits of distorted guitar or pounding piano, the ominous trill of crickets at night, and various audio-horror vignettes (including the “hook man has escaped” story; what does it say about me that the first thing I thought was, Is this from Scream Queens?) that never reach the tense, terrifying conclusions they seem to be barreling toward, leaving us with unfinished business in our heads that often carries over to whatever bizarre segment is up next. It’s a wild ride, for sure, and perfect if you are into the hermetic Halloween thing: Pumpkin Witch, Cursed Pumpkin and all of the “pumpkin synth” projects (yes there are quite a few), or even A Cool Dark Place to Die.

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