Review: James Fella & Gabriella Isaac – CCTK Music (Gilgongo, Oct 29)

The two tracks that comprise CCTK Music being named for lacquers (the physical master materials used to mass-produce individual units in runs of vinyl records) is fitting. This LP collaboration between Arizona sound artists James Fella (Gilgongo owner/operator, Soft Shoulder) and Gabriella Isaac is extremely mechanical and process-based in both sound and execution: “[t]he duo incorporates each other’s material in real time [on side A], cutting the content onto 6 singles-sided reference lacquers. The lacquers were used to assemble a collage in a performance setting in late 2019, and again in a studio setting for side B.” As improvisers and performers in general, both Fella and Isaac tend to at least hint at the loud and abrasive side of things, if not lean into it completely, but whether the loudness and abrasion came from each musician’s individual contributions, their mangling of the other’s, the process itself, or some combination of all three is of little consequence here; “Reference Lacquer” and “6 Lacquer Ensemble” are both masterpieces borne of an agile, magnetic amalgam of glitch, industrial, and noise that is neither instantaneous nor composed—or perhaps both at once. Detailed metallic textures like intricate machine automations, creeping feedback, and restless live-electronic squall stake an expansive but ultimately ephemeral claim on the first side before being assimilated into something more dense and linearly dynamic on the second, and in both cuts the incredible sound design supports a vivid spatiality that’s impossible not to be enthralled by.

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