Mem1: Tetra

Excellent LP of cello and electronics minimalism from this Los Angeles duo. Mark and Laura Cetilia pride themselves on the “seamless blend” of their respective sound contributions, so there are few sharp edges on this record, but it’s certainly not empty, vacuous droning. Rather, what characterises Mem’s music is a very focussed approach to performance which requires coninual concentration, listening to the other player, and close attention to detail. On this very warm and human LP, Mem1 are striking a good balance between composed / improvised and electronic / analogue musics, and their personalities are completely in synch.

I say “warm and human,” realising that both the tracks on Side A may at frist convey the exact opposite sensations on early spins. Part of their project is aiming for an alien, distanced effect, and overall they would be happy to convey the feeling of being alone and lost in a small dark place (or a wide open alien desert). Mem1 would like to encourage interpretations framed in geographic and topographical terms (see their own sleeve notes), and seem drawn to extreme and desolate situations. Along with this, they play in a rather solemn (but not pretentious) fashion. ‘Trieste’ is extremely forlorn, emotional, and melancholy, and your bio-rhythms will slow down in sympathy with its attenuated progressions. ‘Caldera’ is even more abstracted, offering mysterious and slow sensations fit for a ninth-level mind to ponder in isolation. Solid yet nebulous blocks of sound collide and shift, and the playing becomes extremely intense towards the end. These two cuts studiously avoid turning into “gothic’ drone, yet remain quite lugubrious in tone.

The B side is a single long track called ‘Hræsvelgr.’ Right away we notice the playing is not quite as urgent or busy as the first side (if anything so pale and wan can be said to be propelled by urgency). The ambiguous long tones are spacey and deep, and everything appears to be happening in slow motion. This is very much the hoped-for effect of being suspended in a warm and very deep ocean. While not as intense as the A side, this is a more welcome place to exist. Very nicely presented-art object (the creators call it “hand-crafted”) with clear vinyl pressing housed in a screenprinted cover lush with metallic inks; first release on the label, limited to 300 copies. -Ed Pinsent.

The Sound Projector (2011)