“Tape Chants” developed as a way for sound artists Gregg Kowalsky to free himself up from the computer as his main method of composition. By using tape loops, cassette players and old boom-boxes, he constructed a piece that was originally prepared for live performance. Live, it took on the air of performance art as well, since the piece was subject to manipulation by Kowalsky’s tinkering with various volume settings, and with an audience whose members each heard a different piece, depending on how close they were to the variously placed recorders.
On record, “Tape Chants” is a relatively more static experience, yet the mix of noise and drone, sublte rhythms that pulse throughout do have a dynamism that is engrossing. It is interesting that Kowalsky has said that the unlimited potential of the computer was for him a restriction—if you are free to do anything, where do you start?—here his “restriction” to final takes and terminal sounds illustrates great freedom, the freedom which comes from inside the piece, and from the colors found through repeated listening.
Nowhere is that more profound that on the 20 minute “I-IV,” where the slow, almost static drone reveals intense emotion under its calm exterior. Harsher is “VI-VII,” a tonal choice that remains constant until “IX,” when buried piano and sudden rhythms are a pleasant jolt. The final track, with its meditative gong, returns the listener, slowly, back to calmer waters.
“Tape Chants” uses old school technology to express new ways of listening to and feeling electronic music 7/10 -- Mike Wood (22 July, 2009)