Spectrum Spools has always worn its influences on its sleeve, but it’s been rarer to find the label actually reaching backward to highlight the artists that shaped the sound so closely attached to John Elliot and the Cleveland set. 2012 saw a reissue of the undersold, now hopefully classic record Flux by Robert Turman, followed by a repress of Sensation Fixer Franco Falsini’s mellow soundtrack to a film about cocaine called Cold Nose. Both are heady, semi-ambient affairs, combining experimentalism with motorique persuasiveness and an eye for sequenced electronic music as an inwardly psychedelic and progressive movement – which obviously plugs into the contemporary work put out by Spectrum Spools.
David Borden’s ascendance in the centre of that first blooming wave of synthesiser music makes him surprisingly difficult to first penetrate as an artist. An early onset of fatigue does tend to threaten interest as soon as a Discogs page is rammed with a hundred collaborator and record listings, and the sheer breadth of left-a-brick-on-a-synth-with-arpeggios academic work might just lead one to skip over records by Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Company. So reissues are just as important for a second (or third?) generation to get into. Lucky that Elliot pushed through to sequester Music for Amplified Keyboard Instruments, and doubly lucky that it’s such a well-contained document of Borden at his best.
Tightly coiled sequencing is a hallmark here, rapidly punctuating stabs that form dot matrix patterns and melodies – but as with something like Laurie Spiegel’s The Expanding Universe, this rapid movement begins to draw back. Scaling out to a macro level so that pieces take on a cosmic drift, timbres & overall mood developing as though a reflection of the wider ripples caused by such rapid movement in that particular minimalist Reichian style. The two parts to “The Continuing Story of Counterpoint” prove particular highlights of this kind of working, racing to and fro and in and out of differing time signatures with ease. Such intricacy is impressive, only occasionally grating with sudden chord changes or heel turns.
To a particular generation, it might also be hard to tonally dissociate the record with chip-tune and the hyperactive or slightly camp romantic over-articulating of a handheld RPG soundtrack – something perhaps slightly at odds with the posturing of ‘70s academic minimalism (though I don’t doubt there’s some historical overlap here, synth bods are nerds first and foremost after all). There’s only very occasionally the feeling that you’ve accidentally bought a prog record. And is that so bad? Reissues are often spun as a revisionary process for the artist and their stature, but it’s also useful for connecting the dots between that piece of music then and now.
A1. Esty Point, Summer 1978
A2. The Continuing Story Of Counterpoint, Part Nine
B1. Enfield In Winter
B2. The Continuing Story Of Counterpoint, Part Six