J Houpert, N McLaughlin – Dawn Chorus

prayer & nathan mclaughlin
Dawn Chorus
full of nothing
, 2011

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A review by the inimitable Travis Bird over at Foxy D:
A few years ago, or lifetimes ago, Nathan McLaughlin and Joe Houpert played as a duo called Loud & Sad, which released only a couple of CD-Rs and one tape before being separated by geography. These releases are, however, small gems. The power of Loud & Sad is immediately obvious, and is partially derived from sincerity – theirs is music that is unflinching, in its own way completely unafraid. Now, McLaughlin and Houpert have reanimated Loud & Sad with a more individual but no less communicative spirit, and their first release in this form, an elegant tape on Russia’s Full of Nothing label, shows that they haven’t lost a step.
Joe Houpert’s prayer guise represents one side of this split. (I’ve seen Houpert introduce concert performances as “prayer,” so I sense this isn’t so much a moniker as something more abstract.) Although Houpert has done some gorgeous instrumental work, here he begins with loops, which ground his side rhythmically in an important way. Plaintive, down-pitched guitar figures segue nicely into hovering tones. Acoustic guitar accompanies sparse guitar drones and incidental domestic noise, describing a state of serenity wrapped in isolation. Field recording loops lend a human presence, a deliberately subtle manipulation of man’s environment.
McLaughlin has released some incredible music on his six Echolocation releases (one of which was released by my own label, Notice Recordings; others appear on Digitalis, Gift Tapes, Sunshine Ltd, and SicSic), and his Senufo LP, The Refrigerator Is Emotional, garnered quite a few raves earlier this year. His side continues this trajectory, using sparse, strikingly musical tape loops along with some light lo-fi accompaniment. Notable in McLaughlin’s arsenal are his use of extreme bass tones and precisely calibrated delay, which lends extra dimensionality to his simple loops. Another is his fragmentary banjo playing, which nods Cubistically at folk music in the way that Scott Tuma’s distorted guitar roars and yearning harmonica do.
Loud & Sad has released a couple of lathes this year, as McLaughlin and Houpert slowly sift through their recorded archives; along with new material like this, the new era of their collaboration should be very exciting. Both men possess a rare sense of commitment – to friendship, to collaboration, to facing the unknown – that only deepens with time.