The Horaflora side of this Hot Releases split begins with the sound of a factory tuning up as an orchestra would. There is the impression of sound stirring across an open plane, testing the contours of the environment, and signaling something mysterious is about to occur. Those familiar with Raub Roy’s recordings as Horaflora will recognize the multilayered textural approach to composition and the vivid atmospheres set in a state of perpetual flux. But this piece has shifted focus from the organic to the industrial, with the textures calibrated more toward metallic rattling, pneumatics, digital eruptions, and interference.
This session of refracted field recordings (assisted by Andrea Williams), kalimbas, and even “E-bowed street sweeper bristle” produces a good deal of tension, although a few moments of singing bowl provide nicely chilled counterpoint. Sound is treated not as something with which to build a piece of music, but as material to be explored through refining and breaking down. During these explorations the sound components are placed with jeweler’s care within the sound field, never muddling each other and panning gracefully in headphones. There are instances, however, when Roy seems happy to reveal the hand of the composer by cracking a whip of distortion that burns a hole in the piece, revealing more clockworks behind the debris.
If the Horaflora side is texture and space, then Secret Boyfriend traffics in harmony and fullness. The Secret Boyfriend side is also made of songs; some are brief sonic gestures, others are long enough to fully pull you into their world. The side begins with a pulsing organ drone and layers of tones bathed in the light of stained glass that are soon atomized by distortion. Then comes a fluttering, fiber-optic music characterized by subtle shifts in tonal center and soaring but short-lived peak.
The longest song (“Chocolat”) is an amazing piece with graceful clusters of notes played by what sounds like a piano combined with a steel drum. The surprises continue with more steel piano poundings (“Worms”) a short monolith of distorted lasers (“The Doors”) and then “Lesbian Night Birth,” a slow, reverb-soaked beauty of bass, treated vocals, and ambient squiggles. The track has a nostalgic soulfulness that suggests Russell’s “World of Echo” or perhaps 1950ss rock as heard by Kenneth Anger. Beginning with aleatoric scratches in the dust and ending on nicely crafted songs, this split matches an expansive range with solid performances by both artists.