Twin Radiant Flux
LINE_046 | CD | Edition of 500 | November 2010
Twin Radiant Flux, a beautiful processed solo guitar work by Scott Cortez, the instrumentalist of Lovesliescrushing. This previously unreleased hour long collection of works, recorded between 1997 and 1999 shows Cortez’s unique pioneering aesthetic. With droning flows and melodic layered sonic drifts, Twin Radiant Flux predates some of the most important guitar driven currents in contemporary electronic music.
Scott Cortez, (b.1969) is a textural guitarist,visual artist, based in Chicago. Cortez has been making instrumental ambient guitar music for over two decades. He embraces lo-fi minimalist aesthetics by limiting himself to guitars, 4 track cassette recorders, and looping pedals. From these modest tools he combines technique with various processed guitar textures to create droning, shimmering, soundscapes.
Cortez explores the textural possibilities of the guitar, creating music that ranges from experimental to post-rock to contemporary. His trademark sound combines guitar playing with digital techniques, using the guitar as a tone generator, processing the signal through various pedals and filters to create dense shimmering tapestries of sound. Cortez’s music often incorporates drones and loops, which he crafts into enigmatic sound worlds with very subtle melodies. His work focuses mainly on the tonal possibilities of the guitar, and is usually produced without the aid of a computer.
Cover Image: Scott Cortez.
Mastered by Taylor Deupree.
LINE's latest release comes from Chicago's Scott Cortez. With hints of Fennesz and learned guidance from the sounds of Eno and Robin Guthrie et al, Scott works with treated guitars to create velveteen drones and blissed ambient spaces, often teetering on the brink of drifting into more secluded, and shadowy spaces but always remaining within view of the light. The effect of these nine tracks is a little like sitting at the window of a log cain on a remote hillside, watching a wintry sky outside almost imperceptibly cycle through a spectrum of tones, and of course conjuring Gas-like comparisons along the way. Fans of Seefeel, MBV, or Ulrich Schnauss will also get a lot of from this album. Warmly recommended!
... In this era of non-destructive computer editing, Cortez chooses to eschew the popular digital means of capturing his music and instead embraces a minimalist lo-fi aesthetic by limiting himself to guitars, looping pedals and four track cassette recorders. The results speak for themselves in this one long-form track.
Though Twin Radiant Flux is made up of previously unheard material recorded between 1997 and 1999, the album feels cohesive and as fresh as if it were written recently, a testament to Cortez's forward thinking abilities as a musician. The piece begins slowly with a lone note droning into the fore. In time, an ambient haze falls around the listener while Cortez uses his guitars to create beautiful textures and shimmering soundscapes.
Over the remaining hour-plus of music, Cortez conjures an organic mass which slowly shifts and changes, all the while remaining sympathetic to the lo-fi aesthetic. Comparable perhaps to Simon Scott's Navigaire in its scope but with a far more soothing perspective, Twin Radiant Flux is a work of sheer beauty which, despite containing a relatively long period of sound without a moment's silence, leaves the listener refreshed and contented.
... that Lovesliescrushing chappy has some unreleased drone work dating from the late 90s re-mastered released by Mr Chartier & his fine LINE stable. I like his stuff a great deal there's a real classical grace to these long, lanquid ambient movements that reminds me a lot of some of Celer's more celebrated works & maybe some of that Milieu guy's more evocative albums such as Beyond The Sea Lies The Stars. It's truly absorbing late-night gear that you can close your eyes to & pretend you're in an abandoned church with just sleeping, peaceful spirits for company. It's what I'd call rejoiceful melancholia and I can't quite understand how this has remained unheard in some archive somewhere. Lovely. 5/5 stars.
As a companion piece to Line's reissue of Lovesliescrushing's CRWTH (Chorus Redux) from earlier this year, guitarist/instrumentalist Scott Cortez has also released a work of guitar ambience from the latter portion of the '90s that is simultaneously reminiscent of the era's sonic fringes, yet sounds just as fresh today as it would have then.
Due to its composition (all processed guitar) and era of initial recording, I can't help but compare Cortez's guitar experimentations with that of Robert Hampson's Main project, who was active at this time as well. Even though the work of both artists would fit comfortably in the isolationist scene from the period, both construct their guitar work into very different frameworks. While Hampson's always sounded as if he was creating microscopic colonies of organisms via layers of digital processing, Cortez's sound feels more atmospheric in the literal sense. The deconstructed tones and hums of guitar are stretched into stratospheric layers of sound, sometimes icy, other times warm and engaging.
Twin Radiant Flux is a single piece broken into three segments, which are indexed into a total of nine tracks. It opens with near silence, with only the most subtle swells of sound that carry an odd, unnatural warmth. It builds in complexity, but then splits apart into even more sparse territory before the sound gets heavier, with dense sounds welling up that actually resemble an electric guitar at times, but only in the loosest of senses. With the heavier sounds comes a more dramatic ambience, bringing a cinematic sense to close the section out.
The second movement begins with ominous sustained notes, occasionally resembling bowed guitar strings but either way bringing a dark, glacial mood along. As the section continues into its second half, it retains the heavy sound briefly, but then retreats, leaving a thinner, but still dramatic motif that brings along rhythmic swells of guitar that trumpet along for most of the duration.
The final portion again opens by retaining the almost recognizable guitar sounds, beginning forcefully and then withdrawing to quiet, pensive textures. The final two sections bring the guitar back, but in the form of shimmering rays of sonic light, pulling out of the cold bleakness of before and into gentle and beautiful skies. By the end the overt guitar is still there, but eventually becomes organ like textures before closing with the same minimal tones that opened the album.
Given Cortez's reliance on Luddite methods: other than guitar most of the output here is from looping pedals and four track cassette recordings, the wide array of sound and emotion conveyed on Twin Radiant Flux is even more impressive. There are a multitude of other artists working in similar fields who don’t come close to the powerful work here with an array of DSP software packages and digital multitracking setups. While the sound is somewhat sparser without the use of LLC vocalist Melissa Arpin-Duimstra’s voice as an instrument, there is a purity here that gives the album its own distinct feel.
Scott Cortez floats free from the de rigueur digital means of production of our age, continuing to navigate by lo-fi colour - guitar-wrought, loop-pedal-refracted, 4-track cassette-captured.
Twin Radiant Flux may be a reheat of unreleased material from 1997-1999, but it feels very much in-the-now, a tribute to the musicianly imagination of The Artist Formerly Known As lovesliescrushing, in drawing from a heritage left by the likes of MBV, Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, Lush, Catherine Wheel, [insert shoegaze band of choice] to forge something sui generis. A long format piece split into parts, Flux starts slowly with a lone drone to the fore before the shoes-wooze and gaze-glaze drape themselves velveteen over proceedings, over the remainder of which he arcs and dives with shifts and drifts, shimmers and fades, sparingly smearing gorgeous steelmelt over the canvas.
Those who've lately been seduced by the likes of Simon Scott and Rafael Anton Irisarri seriously need to check in here, since, though the ambit is less tortuous - more serene, yet far from fluffy - Scott Cortez is a founding father of a whole lately emergent guitar-abstracted ambient-drone tradition, and a still vital spirit is evident in Twin Radiant Flux, a work of grace and beauty, whose aural perfume lingers kinaesthetically in the room long after. Cover image by the man himself, via Messrs Chartier the fine Line label, mastered by busy bee Deupree.
90s scene-watchers may recall llc as painfully unfashionable, derided, through cloth-eared and facile received wisdom, as MBV-copycatists. Somehow, though, Cortez managed to take his passion forward as an almost cult operation under the patronage of darkwave neo-gothic label,Projekt. Hindsight has been kind to llc's legacy, though. Any number of tracks going back over the years reveal Cortez’s artful recontextualisation of the tropes of the ambient-dreampo-shoegaze genre; try this from circa 1996's swoon-some Xuvetyn, titled typically word-playfully, "Blooded and Blosom- Blown."
In fact, for all the attendant axe worship one might have imagined, Cortez has gone on record as saying he isn't a guitarist; presumably, he intends that he is not a 'guitarist', i.e. neither defined nor driven by his 6-string thing, but rather using it as his tool (a 'simple tone generator', no less... or rather, no more), defined and delimited through the artist's agency, sometimes exponentially, frequently to acousmatic extreme. As if to underline this, a few years back came what might be been as a declaration of independence from hitherto constant pluck-strum chum in Chorus, an album whose sole sound source was voice - his own and that of llc sidekick, Melissa Arpin.
Around the same time,... came a similarly engrossing listen in Crwth (Chorus Redux); an abstracted retool of Chorus, undertaken at the behest of Line man Chartier.Chartier's seal of approval for Cortez’s project ("...the early 'missing link' between the likes of Slowdive and Fennesz. ...an important, if perhaps overlooked, point in the timeline of contemporary electronic music") was perhaps the backstage pass for Cortez's belated entry into the Inner Sanctum of Experimentalist Rigour.
Twin Radiant Flux is a collection of wonderfully soaring and restful processed solo ambient guitar pieces that where created by Scott Cortez- the instrumentalist behind ambient/shoegaze project Lovesliescrushing.
The nine tracks and sixty four minutes worth of lush and blooming ambient guitar texturing was recorded between 1997 and 1999, and this is the first time these recordings have been official released. Each track here is a rich, glowing and gently swirling and ebbing collection of: harmonic drone textures, lush guitar shimmers and warming ambience. On the first few plays through the album I was very much reminded of Stars of the Lids lush yet slightly melancholic guitar drone grandeur, but over more recent plays I can hear Cortez own sonic personality & harmonic/ atmospheric identity coming out more & more. The nine tracks run between just over the two and a half minute mark to just under the fifteen minute mark piece, and each track finds Cortez gently developing and nurturing his guitar to build great, shifting and arching sonic landscapes of harmonic richness, emotional felt ambience and atmospheric grace.
All in all this is a very rewarding and consistent collection of harmonic and atmospheric rich ambient guitar texturing that really deservers a place up there with the best of what this genre has to offer.
Drones have become the new black. I am not complaining but just noticing that they are everywhere. Release such as these were shunned not too long ago. Who would buy them? How could they be marketed? And so forth. Flash forward to now and there is a vibrant scene that is complete with a set of drone lords (not to mention some backlash – but I digress). Perhaps more interesting is how many genre specific musicians have branched out and left their mark on this mindful excursion. It turns out that metal and indie fans are just as much attracted to ambient whirrs as experimental aficionados. Remember that next time you are debating minimalism with your black metal friends.
Scott Cortez (half of the shoegazing lovesliescrushing) has sort of moved out of his comfort zone with this release. I say sort of because his main material was ethereal and had a similar flow. The difference here is that the music has been stripped and any “pop-ish” access points have been removed. Leaving behind something that feels very private and special.
Much has been made about the fact that this music is from a guitar and was done between 1997 and 1999. Some have gone further and pointed out that this predates a lot of what is happening now with guitar-driven experimental composition. I do not know if I agree with this completely. Mostly because a lot of similar (electric) guitar experimentation has been done in the last forty years (Rhys Chatham comes to mind – as do many others). Ultimately this claim does not matter because this kind of music is about the journey and how the listener can relate/react (not how it was created). Often drones succeed on artistic merit but fail when it comes to simple listener enjoyment because the compositions are sterile or theoretical in nature. Scott Cortez’s drones are complex and artistically interesting but the visceral quality alleviates it to something truly original and emotional. It is this alleviation that allow us to travel, meditate and discover something deep within ourselves (and in the music).
Musically, the disc is cohesive with its blend of soundscapes, textures, fluctuations, and tonality. It is never dark but it is not completely bright either in its shimmering echoes. This balance is really decided by the mood of the listener and not by the songs themselves. This distinction is important because it allows for a dynamic quality that is sometimes lost in similar compositions. I do not have to be in a happy or dark mood to listen – the music just exists and won’t color my day unless I want it to.
My advice is to purchase this disc and put it on repeat.
Cuando aún se pueden oír en la lejanía los ecos de CRWTH (Chorus Redux) y Chorus + 3 (Line, 2010) de los renacidos Lovesliescrushing, aparece por la misma Line un nuevo disco de la que es su mitad más activa. Scott Cortez reaparece este año con dos 12”, un “Split” con Language Of Light (Anticlock, 2010) y otro a medias con Thisquietarmy –“Meridians” (Three:Four, 2010), y, finalmente con un disco largo y extenso. Scout, ahora radicado en Chicago, lleva un buen tiempo, unas dos décadas más o menos, en esto de sacarle sonidos un instrumento bastante común: la guitarra. Lo que menos sale de ella es rock, sino algo que en su momento de se llamó shoegazing o dream pop, y que ahora solo lo podemos llamar ambient.
Sabido del interés de Richar Chartier en lo que Lovesliescrushing hizó en las décadas pasadas, insiste y le edita su primer trabajo a su nombre. Twin Radiant Flux es un disco de 64 minutos dividido en nueve partes. ‘Un bello trabajo de guitarra procesada’, grabado hace casi tres lustros, entre 1997 y 1999, que recoge archivos sin desclasificar. Usando solo las seis cuerdas, pedales de loop y un grabador a casete de cuatro pistas, construye una obra de fidelidad menor, pero con buen sonido –la remasterización corrió por cuenta de Taylor Deupree–, donde nos encontramos una sola pieza de más de una hora de volumen bajo y que recorre las distintas variaciones de campos de colores, casi siempre desde el ruido más callado. Guitarras tratadas en una corriente de notas sostenidas en el aire, y que se va degradando conforme avanza el minutaje. Con directrices sonoras que a veces son difíciles de definir, pasa de la delgada línea del drone al ambient puro, y aún cuando sea música orgánica, interpretada nota por nota por Cortez, esto se asemeja al minimalismo electrónico de Wolfgang Voigt –cuando edita como Gas–, Lawrence English o incluso Chartier. Recogidas desde el sótano, estos nueve tracks con notas arrojadas a un mar de noise calmado y quieto.
Abandonando la mayor parte del tiempo el uso de tecnologías modernas, y valiéndose de herramientas que hoy parecen arcaicas, Twin Radiant Flux, o el ‘flujo radiante doble’ se anticipa a ciertas corrientes de guitarristas actuales, así como lleva al extremo del silencio las visiones del pop de ensueño que se encontró con ciertos enfoques de tonalidades mínimas, dando lugar a melodías e imperceptibles, la mayor de las veces escondidas, ocultas bajo capas y capas de texturas sonoras dibujadas con trazos delicados. La verdadera música discreta de fin de siglo.
The most profound, lasting events often occur slowly, imperceptibly. The cataclysm grabs the daily headlines but evolution makes history. Scott Cortez' Twin Radiant Flux unfolds over nine, only nominally separate movements. Recorded between 1997 and 1999 and unreleased until now, it qualifies as an unknown precursor to an entire genus of processed guitar drone and ambient music. With the most basic of ingredients - electric guitar, delay pedal, a couple of tape recorders - Cortez produces elemental music, drifting unassumedly but penetrating the consciousness inexorably. It craves attention while embodying indifference. Beneath its unornate surface, it ripples with melody.