Part of the impetus of this three cassette compilation (by Wren Turco, who also contributes one of the tapes) was to showcase experimental electronic work by female artists that, not only often marginalized because of their gender, are also relatively new on the scene. With her, Gambletron, and NaEE RobERts, a wide spectrum of electronic art is presented, from Gambletron's more discordant abstraction, to Turco’s stripped down deconstructed techno, into NaEE RoBErts' more conventional song structures. All three tapes stand strongly on their own, but also compliment each other exceptionally well, making for a very strong compilation.
Montreal's Lisa Gamble (as Gambletron, and also a member of Clues and Hrsta)'s contribution is two lengthy pieces on a tape entitled We Can't See Past the Cliff. The first, "Guelph Ontario" drifts beautifully between dissonance and melody. At times passages of lush electronics and peaceful expanses, and others she transitions into harsher and aggressive territories, the 11 minute piece stays constantly compelling. When Gamble brings in the heavy beats and dubby processing, I started feeling nostalgic for those late 1990s ambient dub days of Scorn and Techno Animal. With the rhythms becoming erratic later on, and a tasteful lo-fi sheen overall, the sound is entirely unique, however. The other half, "AM Theremin Radio Drone" is exactly what the title would indicate, but its massive sub bass and occasional blasts of pure noise keep it from becoming too stagnant.
Turco's Artesian Pressures is a bit more grounded in the conventional elements of electronic music by comparison. Melodic sequences and rhythmic elements stay prominent throughout. "Visual" is a nice pairing of heavy pulsating electronics, but paired with a great sense of melody, with excellent development and dissolution of the piece’s structure, rhythmic but without any actual drum sounds to be heard. "Neon Noir", on the other hand, is a brain-jarringly low bit of bass synthesizer sound that eventually develops into something resembling a distorted electronic bassline amplified intensively. The simple "Infinita" closes her tape with a repetitive melodic synth sequence, covered in just the right amount of audio grime.
NaEE RoBErts (Norwegian multimedia artist Sandra Mujinga)’s lengthy contribution to this set, Summer Care is clearly the most conventional. Rich synthesizers and stiff drum machine beats define most of these 16 songs. Opener "Jaws, Eyes and Mouth", for example, is a basic electronic backing to Mujinga's vocals with only a bit of processing to them. On "Residents", she pushes things into darker spaces, with backward string passages and an appropriately gloomy vocal contribution that contrasts the metronome-like snappy beat behind it. Many of these pieces have a stripped down, bedroom demo quality that I always find to be an asset, but "I Have Been Useful" seems larger and more ambitious in scope. Opening with dramatic synth flourishes, the vocals are up front and clean, and the piece evolves strongly to close on a calm note. The instrumental pieces on Summer Care are no less effective. "The Birds" is massive kick drum and hardcore bass leads, eventually solidifying as some bizarre take on 1990s rave anthems, while "Diligence" is a more contemporary work, with sharp drums cutting through the idiosyncratic synth passages very well. The beat opening "The Fishes" sounds straight out of a late 1970s Cabaret Voltaire record, but the full piece is more modern with its noisy snaps and varying rhythms.
Given that one of the goals of Transparens was to increase the profile and awareness of these artists, I would say Wren Turco and the Idle Chatter label have been extremely successful in this goal. Very soon after listening to these tapes I hit Discogs to see what else was out there from Turco, NaEE RoBErts, and Gambletron, and sadly did not find much. I am not sure if that is due to the three being relatively new artists or the unfortunately byproduct of obscurity, but I hope this changes soon. There is a lot of fresh, enjoyable, and at times challenging music in this beautifully packaged set, and I found it an excellent compilation of diverse, yet complimentary sounds.