Review: Pillowdiver – Cassette Recordings

There’s nothing new about smudging the twang of the electric guitar into blurrier shapes via distortion, reverb and delay pedals, and Pillowdiver never pretends that there is. Neither does René Margraff offer any startlingly fresh sounds to what is already well-documented palette of possibilities within the realms of affected guitar; once again, never is there so much of an implication that this is what Pillowdiver is trying to achieve. Without any blatant tactics to stray beyond what may be considered the “boundaries” of the known and familiar, Margraff nonetheless sources his own distinctive voice within his intentionally limited setup – he turns inward, wading into a territory in which the general colours and shapes are widely known, and yet many intricacies lay untouched by the lights of focus. Cassette Recordings is a meditation, drifting further into those molecular details through which the album’s character manifests as something unique and alive.

Each track was put together in a matter of hours, thus retaining the unkempt edges that retrospective analysis tends to sand down. Like a mist that forever thickens and fades, the music allows Margraffs playing to momentarily emerge ghost-like within the obscuration; reverb cuts back to unveil those delicate plectrum attacks and grumbles of down-tuned low frequency, cutting through those drones that surge into view without a clear beginning or foreseeable conclusion. There are times at which Cassette Recordings is unquestionably a “guitar record”, and conjures mental visuals of a musician locked intensely into his own transcendent solitude, leaving the process very much on show. And then there are those moments at which the silhouette of the creator disappears, leaving the listener to become the very subject of the transcendence – drifting off to witness the delicate splashes of rainfall on a still lake, or wallow in outer space’s glimmering, lonely expanses. The real enjoyment of Cassette Recordings manifests as the mysterious manner in which the music see-saws between the two.