I’ve been vaguely aware of Fletcher Pratt for some time, but not been exposed to any of his doings until this occasion of acquiring this item. It seems he’s been active since about 2005, working with various abstract electronics under his own name, in collaboration with various people including Headboggle, John Olson and Sharkiface. He has a series of releases cataloging collections of dub sessions, counterpointing his many abstract and exploratory recordings.
Fletcher runs the Midori label (9 releases or so between 2008-2018), and also works with video-visuals both analog and digital (find on Instagram at @fletcher_pratt_visuals), which is the source of cover imagery for this short run of cassettes on the Flophouse label.
My first listening exposure to anything of the Flophouse label, Rituals for Magnetic Tape Vol. II is a highly stimulating collage of varied electronic noodling. Bits of different environmental sounds (it seems), organic instruments, and field recordings are interspersed with a delightful palate of analog synth tweedlings which pop in and out, often with tape-tampering manipulations. Centrally, the sound materials are of old-fashioned modular weirdness in the delightful vein of the golden era of academic electronic music experimentation circa 1940s-1960s (Morton Sobotnik and others come to mind…). These playfully eclectic sounds are then toyed with via tape speed warbling (pulling on the tape), and abrupt start/stop of recording, tape reversal, splicing etc. These cuts / transitions are all happening quite frequently, which makes for a dizzying array of sound types. At some points, vignettes form for some fleeting moments as a phrase or chord of tones holds, to then be washed away by the next wave. Lovely segments occasionally float in aural view long enough for the listener to develop a deeper connection or analysis of detail, sometimes consisting of loose arpeggios, melodic tinkering, skittering, twinkling, tonal or atmospheric washes. In all, nothing stays too long or not long enough; the smorgasbord of sound is highly substantial without bloating the mind with excess. The spirit of experimentation is richly alive in this 60 minutes of exploration, and makes for a quite stimulating listen all the way through.
This is available as a cassette (only 3 remain today @ Flophouse HQ…) or download, and each cassette’s artwork (as with most Flophouse releases) is unique: each copy features a different screen-grab of imagery pulled from Fletcher Pratt’s colorful video work.
Flophouse often uses special papers and / or ink / paint / hand stamp / print processes which make each copy unique, though part of a cohesive set of paper-works. This to me at this phase in my life is one of the main points of interest in acquiring a physical release of any media. The extent to which the item has been hand-made has a strong impact on my appreciation and enjoyment of the work. It’s a bit of “above and beyond” which speaks to the love of art / craft for its own sake, and adds more human spirit, which is hard to quantify in dollars, but can give the object a special “value” in the most non-illusory (non-monetary) sense. Hand-made recordings can be small, ritualistic acts of love; an antidote to the money/status-chasing we are all having crammed down our throats and eyes and ears every day.
The way this audio work is unapologetically collaged, highlighting fleeting anomalous soundforms borne from exploration, happenstance and error, too, is –as the title aptly includes– a ritual for the love of the experience of creation, and the sounds themselves.