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Steven Hess & Christopher McFall: The Inescapable Fox (Under the Spire)

Steven Hess once again challenges the notion of what it means to be a percussionist, this time collaborating with sound artist Christopher McFall. The Inescapable Fox is even further removed from Hess’s drumming roots than his Cleared project, consisting largely of tape loops and manipulations of field recordings. Each artist is credited with different instruments and techniques, although one might be hard-pressed to clearly pinpoint where one leaves off and the next begins. McFall’s instrumentation, usually submerged underwater with a layer of surface noise, is a healthy complement to the more percussive and textural sounds contributed by Hess. The two created these tracks in reference to Greek mythology and the contrast between extreme light and dark. The entire release drifts by like the vague memory of a dream, where only some of it is clear and most of it is slightly faded. The warm, noisy crinkle of “Orsa II” reminds me of prime NON ambient-noise (circa Blood & Flame) while some of the looping, affected piano on “Orsa I” is truly haunting. The combination of murky textural sounds, surface noise and melancholy, looped phrases, however faint they may be, is effective. McFall wrote this about the collaboration:

I think I speak for Steven and I both when I make mention of the fact that a great deal of the materials used to create this release stemmed from a mutual interest in working with taped (analog) recordings. So, when we began working together we started by sending analog recordings back and forth by mail. Most of my recordings are done on treated tape, whereby the binder material is subjected to hydrolysis prior to the recording phase. Steven recorded some of the more sound/precussive elements for the inescapable fox on some of my tapes and his as well. He sent them to me and I began editing the material from there. I’ve been working with piano, voice and field recordings for some time now, so I tailored these source recordings specific to the tracks on the release.

As far as ideologies are concerned, we approached the collaboration process thematically in order to attempt to focus our work for this release. The initial concept for release centered around the thoughts of the interface between light and dark (the specific mention relating to the collision of these two absolutes). This notion of absolutes brought to a stage of possible compromise made me think a bit about Greek mythology, specifically about Laelaps (the hound never failed to catch whatever it was that he was hunting) and his rival the Teumessian fox that could never be caught. The Inescapable Fox seemed to allow for a resolution of the two.

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