The Library of Babel – Improvised Music for the Brave of Heart

I first heard the Library of Babel release on Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records several months back and it caught my attention and imagination immediately. The music is primarily improvised and as you’d expect with this sort of experiment, some moments are amazing and other create the listening tension for the next aesthetically pleasing moment to arrive. This is the type of music that takes chances and as a listener you can reap huge rewards for your courage if you dig in and really explore what’s unfolding.

From Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records:

Unconscious gasps of breath. Finger skin sliding on metal strings. An acoustic guitar is flanked by cello and double bass in a relationship that at times feels almost parental – the two bigger instruments keeping a watchful eye over the junior one as it gambols ahead, constantly investigating and testing.

This is a very special release. If what this label has relished in before is pairing occult, abstract instances of sound to partly-erased images and letting the spectator simply make of it what it wishes, a new strategy for Blue Tapes might be to try and apply that lovingly rendered abstraction to music – things people might actually want to hear. Records, some people call ‘em.

So, without compromising our position, it would be an exciting experiment to attempt to curate releases that anyone could hear and get something from. Even if – especially if – the hypothetical listener weren’t quite sure what it was they were getting out of this.

I think the nineteenth release in the tape series, by The Library of Babel, achieves this. This music is delicate, intricate – an intimate conversation in real-time between three gorgeous-sounding instruments. So intimate, in fact, that as a listener you imagine yourself between the instruments, the sounds slipping and buzzing around you, the warm breath of the players on your neck; sometimes even more intimately you feel yourself between the the strings, the notes, sliding as they ring and you vibrate.

The music has an instinctive narrative although the playing is improvised. Fans of blue twelve: Tashi Dorji, in particular, will appreciate this – especially as guitarist Shane Parish and bassist Frank Meadows are friends and regular collaborators of Tashi in their hometown of Asheville, NC. The sounds the pair make with cellist Emmalee Hunnicutt potentially have wide appeal, though, caressing the dopamine centres of brains wired for jazz and free folk alike.

Gratifyingly, though, there is an absence of any real genre to call a home for this music. It is animalistic in its intuition and motives. Seemingly oblivious to its own wisdom and only concerned with the moment.

I love this music very much. I hope something in it captures you too.

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