Review: Abby Lee Tee – At the Beaver Lodge I (self-released, Jun 12)

beaverlodge (2)Ever since departing from a stylistic focus on conventional electronica and hip-hop with 2017’s Riverside Burrows, Austrian artist Fabian Holzinger (as Abby Lee Tee) has been honing the delicate art of concise phonography, using various nature recordings and animal sounds to sculpt soundscapes that seethe with minute detail. Of all the tapes in this new vein that he’s put out in the past five years or so, the Imaginary Friends series on Czaszka is probably most illustrative of what I’d personally place at the core of Holzinger’s sound: complex, disarming bricolages of often quite familiar sounds framed with a clarity and intentionality that distorts the boundary between organics and artifice. At the Beaver Lodge I has less of that element of “intelligent design,” if you will, but “complex” and “disarming” still apply to these two five-minute cuts of noises made by beavers residing in a lodge on the Danube. Like some of the other fauna that have appeared in various Abby Lee Tee works, the beavers’ nasal vocalizations are both pleasing and grating; not in any abrasive or confrontational sense, but more due to a mild uncanny valley effect—these sounds are sometimes just too human. But they aren’t, of course, and something else this first installment in a planned series reminds us of is that beavers have their own lives and livelihoods: gnaw-whittling the perfect stick into the perfect shape for the dam, caterwauling in the early morning rain, crooning together in collective chorus. At the Beaver Lodge I, despite its conspicuous succinctness, perhaps marks yet another new direction for Holzinger, one in which intricacies of capture and composition don’t aim to create new worlds, but instead to reveal existing ones.

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