Tape is quiet. There are no jarring noises, though some easily could have been, but a smooth ride into your own moments of private awe instead. It is thick with the kind of emotions that aren't worth talking about, the kind that you feel very deeply but can never even begin to explain. Tape is just as complex and simple as these emotions are. They can only be expressed by telling of the moments you feel them in, or listening to Tape.
In "Oak Player," I'm on a lake in Sweden for the first time. The boat is low in the water, so that it seems it may flood in at any time. The subtle cymbals are my nervousness, since I don't like it when I can't see the bottom where there is water. The horns that swell in and out are my absorption with the event, with the fact that I have never been on a Swedish lake before. Each sense is more alive than it would be in routine life. The smell of the forest on one edge of the lake wafts my way; the aroma is filled with pine needles and the reassuring scent of decay. The sun is warm without being harsh. The water is cool and refreshing.
The boat rocks gently back and forth, and I soon get over my fear of being plunged into the water and start to enjoy the gentle, motherly motion. "Sponge Chorus" describes the rippling that the subtle breeze makes on the surface of the water. I watch idly for any aquatic creatures, but only catch a few glimpses of silvery fins swishing away. It is just me on the lake. I can hear people on the shore, but they are too far away to be more than a murmur. The sound of a tape recorder in the background of "Sponge Chorus" is my brain in thought, loving every minute of this undemanding day.
Back on the shore, I am watching a small boy play by the water in "Crippled Tree." He doesn't pay attention to me, and has probably forgotten that I am even watching. He's too fascinated by strange things in the mud at his feet. He has chosen a small stick with one branch extending off of it and is poking at the things near his feet. There is mud splattered in the most unlikely places on him, but he doesn't care. He might be looking for rocks, or frogs, or a dragon's tooth. Or maybe he isn't even looking for something, but playing one of those games that only kids can make up, where the rules are whatever they want them to be.
"Edisto" is an exploration into the sun-dappled woods. My friend leads me, explaining what some of the plants are and the general ecosystem of the forest, but I'm barely listening. I merely nod my head, while my eyes scan from side to side. It's rather out of character for me, but I don't care what anything is or why it lives there. I'm just interested in it. There are strange, natural things that I have never seen before. I stop to examine things as much as I can, almost afraid to touch, as if it were a museum.
In "Golden Twig," my friend has invited a few people to the lake. We sit around, drinking liquor and talking about trivial things, enjoying each other's company. A couple of people have decided they want to teach me funny sayings in Swedish, and I've had enough to drink to not be shy about it. A few others are entertaining each other with amusing stories, in both Swedish and English. The cool night air and the lake echo our voices back to us comfortingly. All of us feel very secure and peaceful.
I wake up early the next morning, for no reason other than that early morning is a wonderful time of day. I make coffee, though no one else is yet awake, and sit out in the grass to drink it. The red cottage that we are staying in has been by this lake for a long time, and there are ruins of older homes in the woods. So I let my mind wander, imagining the different things that might have been happening nearby one hundred or five hundred or a thousand years ago. I hear the faint scraping in "Long Bell" as if a man is sharpening his sword against a huge granite boulder.
My friend is the next person up. He stealthily joins me, carrying his own cup of steaming black coffee. We say nothing to each other. After so many years of friendship, you know you don't have to. Just sitting there together is enough, even if you are thinking of different things. We watch the natural world move around us. I am filled again with child-like wonder that is so beautiful, it feels like it will break my heart.
The album ends with "Switchboard Fog." I know I am going to have to leave the lake, so the last moments by it take on an extra sense of poignancy than what they would have had if I could stay. My mind is half on the journey ahead and half consumed with trying to remember each detail of the present. My heart is filled with the music of slow, sad string instruments.
I was really hoping for something that would be relaxing today, and this was exactly what I needed. There is nothing more relaxing to me than a good, long session of vivid daydreams. If my imagination ever turns barren, I'll turn to Tape for refreshment. 9/10 -- Eden Hemming Rose (25 May, 2005)