Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures  |  Adult
Boston  |  Portland  |  Providence
CD Reviews  |  Classical  |  Download  |  Live Reviews  |  Music Features  |  New England Music News

Drone machine

Howard Stelzer celebrates 10 years in Boston
By SUSANNA BOLLE  |  January 14, 2008

In 2008, local experimental musician, promoter, and head of the Intransitive Recordings label Howard Stelzer celebrates a decade in Boston. And a lot has happened in those 10 years; performances and collaborations with numerous musicians from this city and around the world; a three-day festival of experimental and electronic music at MassArt; and the release of nearly 30 albums on Intransitive.

To mark his second decade in the city, Stelzer has an ambitious release schedule planned for Intransitive in 2008, one that includes his newest solo CD, Bond Inlets, which features a pair of extended, densely textured drones. Reaching an auspicious milestone like your 10th anniversary can of course lead to a spate of soul-searching and self-reflection. But as Stelzer explains over beer and Taiwanese dumplings in his Cambridge apartment, he’s been in the midst of revisiting and examining his work with an exacting and critical eye for a couple of years now. And this latest album is the direct result.

Its title is an anagram of Stone Blind, Stelzer’s first solo CD, which was released in 1998, around the time of his move from Florida to Boston. Not one to mince words, Stelzer says he was unhappy with that first disc from the moment he got it back from the pressing plant. “I threw most of them away, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw out the whole pressing, because somehow people always come to regret doing that.”

Stelzer’s music has evolved since then, even though his basic instruments — cassette players and tapes, which he manipulates like an avant-garde DJ — have remained pretty much fixed, with only a few additions (a synthesizer, microphone, and effects pedal) to his set-up. His early experiments — particularly those with his long-time collaborator, turntablist Jason Talbot — were frenetic and jittery, with lots of fast edits and harsh bursts of sound. His current music centers on prolonged, slow development and subtle shifts in tonal color, texture, and volume. Where he once unleashed flurries of sharp, quick explosions, he now favors slower burns and gradual decay.

A key moment in this shift away from his early obsession with chopped-up tape collage was a long-distance collaboration with New Zealand musician Stephen Clover (a/k/a Seht). The album that resulted, Exactly What You Lost (Intransitive), begins with a volley of noise and energetic, rapid cuts, but the maelstrom quickly subsides, and the rest of the album is a patient exploration of dark, grainy sounds and slow, dreamlike degradation.

After completing Exactly What You Lost, Stelzer decided to give Stone Blind another listen. It was more of a sonic salvage operation than an attempt to exorcise past demons. He sifted through and dissected it, and Bond Inlets would rise from the ashes. “I started pulling all the good sounds out,” he says of the process, which lasted almost two years, “going through the album second by second and cutting it and cutting it until it was exactly an hour long. I pulled out all these sounds and separated them into their original components and started composing with those. And then, after a couple of years of working with just those sounds, I added a few more elements as well, but for the most part the changes were simply the result of the actual process of working with the sounds from Stone Blind. And this is what became Bond Inlets.”

As for other projects and releases, Stelzer’s plate is quite full. He has just released Zontag (Port) with guitarist Giuseppe Ielasi and sound artists Roel Meelkop and Frans de Waard. And this February, In Remembrance of Me, the first disc by Skeletons Out, his oneiric, droning duo with Jay Sullivan, is due on Students of Decay. There’ll be a CD-release party at the Middle East upstairs on Monday February 11.

  Topics: Music Features , Howard Stelzer , Music , Entertainment ,  More more >
  • Share:
  • RSS feed Rss
  • Email this article to a friend Email
  • Print this article Print

election special
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   BUBBLE AND SCRAPE  |  October 09, 2008
    Chocolate Monk at P.A.’s, Preliminary Saturation at the Piano Factory
  •   BOOKED SOLID  |  October 03, 2008
    A week of deconstruction, dubstep, and drones
  •   !!!!!!!!!!!!  |  September 23, 2008
    Exclamation Point! diversifies its portfolio
  •   SCHOOL DAZE  |  September 17, 2008
    Sonorous studies at Oxfam
  •   DECISIONS, DECISIONS  |  September 10, 2008
    Excited strings, Swiss sound art and utter mayhem

 See all articles by: SUSANNA BOLLE

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

Featured Articles in CD Reviews:
Saturday, October 11, 2008  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2008 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group