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Plays Wagner

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Album Review

Plays Wagner first came out in 2009 as a limited-edition cassette on Pat Maherr's (Indignant Senility) home label. A few months later, the much-lauded label Type Records split the cassette onto two separate LPs (Plays Wagner, Pt. 1 and Plays Wagner, Pt. 2), and finally brought the whole thing back together for a single-CD release in May 2010 (Plays Wagner). What you hear throughout this album is recordings of works by Wagner taken from thrift store-bought LPs. Maherr has slowed down these sources, distorted them, and sent them through filters, or possibly made several successive copies of them on analog tape to muddy them up. The listener hears tape hiss, tape signal overload, vinyl surface noises, flattened drones in which orchestras can be recognized, low rumbles that are clearly extremely slowed-down orchestras, etc. For the original release, Maherr had copied his master on old recycled C-90 cassettes, adding an extra layer of muddiness. The Type releases use one of these cassettes as the master to retain that feel. The resulting music is a stunning interpretation of the doom and dread found in Wagner's emphatically dramatic music. It's creepy, moody, and utterly disquieting. It also has ties with William Basinski's disintegrating loops, Leyland Kirby's endlessly melancholic albums, Svarte Greiner's dark drones, and a whole chunk of the ‘80s drone/noise cassette underground, to which Plays Wagner could be perceived as an homage as much as a rereading. The album doesn't fare well under close inspection — paying too much attention to it will have you bored long before its 77 minutes are over, because the techniques never change, nor does the sound palette. However, it works very well as music to doze off to (just don't expect pleasant dreams). ~ François Couture, Rovi

Plays Wagner, Indignant Senility
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