It’s been more than a month since my last review. What better way to return to the fold than writing about a release that doesn’t technically feature any music at all?
Partial Previews, the first new work from Chicago duo Partial (Haptic member and Suppedaneum honcho Joseph Clayton Mills with Coppice half and Future Vessel mastermind Noé Cuéllar) since 2014’s sublime LL comprises the following pieces, available as a unit for free plus the cost of shipping:
1. One matte gray paper folder, slightly textured, with a single interior pocket. The folder measures 6 ½ inches by 8 ¼ inches and weighs 1 oz (27 g). The word “Previews” is embossed on the cover in a serif font.
2. One audio cassette with blue leader tape, encased in clear acrylic with silver metallic foil labels affixed to both sides, held together with five small black screws. The cassette is blank and approximately 30 minutes in duration. The cassette measures 4 inches by 2½ inches by ½ inch and weighs 1.1 oz (31 g).
3. Two acrylic dice, one of which is black with white markings and one of which is white with black markings. On each of the dice, two faces are marked with a single line, horizontal or vertical depending on the orientation. Two faces are marked with a cross consisting of two lines of equal length. Two faces are blank. The corners of the dice are rounded. Each of the dice is ⅝ of an inch in height. Each of the dice weighs 0.2 oz (4 g).
4. Three rectangular sheets of blank white paper. One sheet is matte cardstock; one sheet has a glossy, reflective sheen on one side; and one sheet is translucent vellum. Each sheet measures 5 inches by 7 inches. The cardstock sheet weighs 0.1 oz (3 g). The glossy sheet weighs 0.2 oz (4 g). The translucent vellum weighs less than 0.1 oz (less than 1 g).
5. One hexagonal pencil with #2 graphite lead, sharpened, with a soft nonsmear latex-free eraser affixed to one end. The other end is sharpened. The pencil is painted red, is approximately 3 ¾ inches in length, and weighs 0.1 oz (3 g). This pencil is certified to conform to ASTM standard D4236 by the Pencil Makers Association of America.
6. One smooth red acrylic disc, the surface of which is blank and slightly reflective, 2 inches in diameter and ⅛ inch in thickness, weighing 0.3 oz (7 g).
The written instructions are equally straightforward: “Place the red disc within your field of vision while recording or being recorded. Conceal the red disc when not recording or being recorded. / Read faces for suggestions on how to use Partial Previews. / Partial Previews are proportionate to one’s ratio of uncertainty to action as faces become less blank.” The digital supplement to the release, free to download on the Suppedaneum Bandcamp page, provides further suggestions for effective use. Bookend tracks “⊞” and “⊟” ostensibly feature the audio from both sides of the blank cassette, fifteen minutes each of empty analog hiss, though the former seems to be an external microphone recording and the latter direct-input. Together with the completely silent “▢” they form three levels of involvement with or observation of the “material” contained on the tape. I would say that it’s unclear whether the sonic aspect is even essential to the work as a whole or it’s just one of many equally inconsequential angles to approach whatever the actual essence is, but in this case such statements are just as redundant as what they attempt to describe. Maybe it’s ironic that it takes a meeting of such conceptually minded artists to create something so thoroughly literal, or maybe the irony is that literality itself is rendered obsolete. We’ve all heard the “At the end of the day, it’s just an apple” routine; could the tangible components have been described any more accurately? Does holding them in one’s hands—actually using them for whatever purpose is allowed by the unspoken constraints of such specificity—make them any more real? I don’t fucking know. What use are questions that have answers?