Prepared-pianos bow and curtsy, politely size one another up, as if in and out of a first waltz. Strings signal an understanding, a feeling, mutual. That waltz then continued somewhere more intimate, behind closed doors, undressed, undressing. Those strings a drone. Rooms resonate, vibrate, elevate, levitate. Noise subsides and dissipates. Cool blue horns sound out of a fog, seducing like snake charmers, suggesting heartbreak, destructive ends of the affair. Cellos flurry like flowers unfurling in spring, bees hovering, pollinating. Guitar treatments transform music into landscapes only glimpsed from a passing train. Fingers pick out melody like hurried hands at a journal attempting to record, preserve, every detail. The waltz then reprised, tentatively as if by lovers reunited after twenty, thirty, years. Smiling kindly, a little sad-eyed at a love remembered. Bells thin to vapour, bounced infinitely through customised tape decks. Choir boys cry. Wind distorts hymn in to howl, dropping to a hum, though empty, absence, before rising to an re-appreciation of current skies.
While the press release states that 130701, “single-handedly defined the post-classical genre”, and the Fat Cat chaps are old mates (130701 being another arm of the rightly respected label), I`m not sure I hold with that hyperbole.
What I do know is that fifteen years ago when Fat Cat`s Alex Knight & Dave Howell first played me 130701`s inaugural release by Set Fire To Flames, I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been. Its “Post-Classical” nature was really a place where Fat Cat`s experimental Split Series and the “Post-Rock” (Tortoise, God Speed You Black Emperor, Do Make Say Think, Tarentel, etc.) we`d all been discovering met. If you`d been listening it was the obvious next musical step, but it did seem like another brave move from heads that had gone from running perhaps the world`s most renowned Techno Record shop to putting out rough, primitive Rock sides by bands such as Programme, Party Of One and Giddy Motors. And while I`m not sure it defined the genre, 130701 definitely gave Post-Classical a profile, took it out of a niche, said to Fat Cat`s young established audience, “Hey check this out. It`s great!” It encouraged a lot of people to open their ears wider and blew the dust off any preconceptions of “Classical”. Said Ravers can like this stuff too.
Alex & Dave`s confidence and commitment (I may have said this before, but if I ever meet with Alex and he`s not super enthusiastic about some new band – currently it`s new signing Resina – then music will be finished) and 130701 did launch the careers of Hauschka (“Room To Expand” recently got a reissue, which I should have reviewed, sorry) and Max Richter (likewise “Songs From Before” just got repressed), who are now regarded pillars, benchmarks. Spoken about in intellectual, academic tones. And I am sure that without 130701, labels such as Erased Tapes, PRAH, Denovali, would not exist, and that names like Jon Hopkins, Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds, would be confined to margins rather global acclaim.
The press release also mentions a “huge emotional weight” associated with 130701`s music and here I concur. Illustrated by the music collected here, exclusives by the eleven artists on the label`s roster, as a genre “post-classical” does inspire nostalgia, often cathartically so. The way themes appear and reappear, are shredded and decayed, eventually lost, does lend itself to immersion in the “pain of returning”, does mimic the nature of memory. How images are recalled, non linearly, sometimes vague, sometimes in sharp relief, and eventually let go as the day`s needs shake you from reverie. So hence my opening prose, that`s were listening took me, and hence my failure to review those recent reissues by Hasucka and Max Richter. It`s not healthy for me to travel backwards too often. Make that trip too many times in succession. I might get stuck there. I guess nostalgia need not be melancholy. I guess it depends on what you`ve left behind, loves you`ve known. Mistakes you`ve made.