Blank Tape Positive – Richard Garet and the sublime. (Music Review)

The relationship between making a sound, choosing what to listen to and listening are fraught with an infinitesimal series of choices that render listening an almost impossible act. Many of the choices that determine the registered sound (for a human creature going about their day) are unconscious, some are political, some are rational and a small few are deliberate. Strikingly, sound is manipulated by distance, not just physical but through time also. It is also colonized, by the device that delivers it, preserved to the point where it changes properties and relatively unintentionally forms systems of characterisation that anchor it in a certain time. Machines grow old and die, just as human’s do, and so a preserved sound will deteriorate depending on how it is recorded. This relationship between device, time and sound fascinates Richard Garet who is interested in tackling the playback device as “material in itself by turning it inside out, by decontextualizing it, and by mutating the capabilities of its functionality. In due course the magnetic tape is modified, the machine is also modified; subsequently nothing plays properly or does what it was built or designed to do.”


The appreciation of audiotape as an overdetermination and coordination in playback culture’s framework involves a relationship with its systems of music characterisation and symbolism that gives rise to a central question of indeterminacy and epistemological limits that involves a kind of musical post-structuralism. Blank Tape Positive is a borderless listen, the device has been turned inside out and yet it includes its functional histories as scree, positing the illusion that its systems find and mash the correspondingly coded memory within the listener. Its beauty comes from recognition and ownership, as if its sound is a long-lost friend laced with the lines of indiscretion that relate to an unknown intimacy, despite recognition. The sound is spliced into two sections simply titled Blank Tape Positive 1 and Blank Tape Positive 2, the sounds themselves separated by a short silence and a change in pitch and tone, also with an aggression in part 2 that brought a blush to my cheek. These detours act as a screen that diverts listening toward the musicians outstretched hand. To properly listen, this path should be resisted (I decided), and the search for an entrance to the sound, less to the musicians liking might be more collaborative, but Garet’s offer is very tempting and this particular listener found herself falling into his offered beauty with a circular regularity.

My review has been rewritten several times, and is late according to the calendar. Blank Tape Positive was released by Contour Editions in October 2013. However, in my defence, I’ll add that I found this music to be abyssal, and it took many searches to come up with something that barely scratches at the surface of the beauty I felt while I listened to Richard Garet’s offerings.

To my knowledge, the recording is still available. You can contact Contour Editions here.