With two different releases in 2021, Jim Campbell (as Rrill Bell) follows up 2020's Ballad of the External Life going in two very different thematic directions. A cassette, False Flag Rapture, is a personal, intimate work based around a recording of his grandmother, while the digital (available with printed material as well) Blade‚Äôs Return is a narrative tale about a saw (I am not sure if it is truly meant to be anthropomorphic or not). Both feel rather different from each other, but both also feature the heavy tape manipulations of Campbell, reducing instrument recordings to raw material that he shapes into entirely different and unique forms.
Part one of False Flag Rapture opens with backward, swirling music with an overall gentle sensibility, even with the complex layering and textural clicking.As the sound continues to churn and sputter, Campbell balances the chaos and calm, even as a hint of menace begins to seep in.He brings in almost animalistic, growling noises, inhuman and somewhat terrifying, and everything has this odd combination of feeling familiar and natural, and yet completely alien.
On the other side of the tape, he leads off with delicate, chiming sounds before introducing a tape of his grandmother singing a Slovak hymn, which was the thematic impetus for this work.Besides this, and fragments of conversation from the same recording, he keeps things lighter with sustained, muffled tones and lots of chimes and bells, suiting the hymnal nature of the thematic core of the piece.
Samples can be found here.
Compared to False Flag Rapture, the conceptual framework of Blade‚Äôs Return is far less subtle.Deemed "an audio fable" by Bell, it tells the story of a handsaw that regrets its days used to cut down trees and thus tries to atone for its sins within the forest.The use of a musical (singing) saw is the most obvious manifestation of this theme but with the exception of a spoken introduction to the five pieces, the story is told purely through processed recordings.
Beyond the playing of the saw, Bell works again with heavy tape manipulation, along with less manipulated environmental recordings from Switzerland.The saw often takes the lead, such as the scraping on "The Return" or as shrill, bowed tones throughout "Lament."The latter is also a standout via tape manipulation, where Campbell creates a scene of a haunted forest, complete with animals in the distance.The shorter closing pieces "Atonement" and "Release" feature largely sparse mixes, with the former casting expansive tones far in the distance, and the latter blending in sounds of water and other environmental sounds.
Campbell certainly succeeds in the lofty goals for both of these releases:Blade‚Äôs Return is a narrative driven (almost exclusively) by sound, and False Flag Rapture captures the personal and intimate, but also a healthy dose of mystery.Both releases outline the instrumentation he used for the recordings, but it is only recognizable a fraction of the time.As Campbell treats and manipulates the instrumental sounds, it becomes something entirely different, mysterious, confounding, and captivating.
Samples can be found here.