Retarded Memory is a strange space: both a musical reflex that draws its power from spiritual connection, and a complete slackening of all the rules and restraints that normally govern the creative mind – playful and care-free collision of the accidental and the intentionally noisy (dying penny whistles, toppled percussion, voices channelling exorcised others) which somehow generates the spark of transcendence during the impact. The recording captures space as much as instrument – the air into which the two players establish a connection and simultaneously exist in a situation, as a dot in real-time and real-space – and it’s through the organic assembly of sound and natural reverberation that the listener can experience impulse and spontaneity in all its vibrancy. There’s something delightful in knowing that each bizarre twist in direction is the result of an actual, human-sourced ping-pong rationale, rather than a retrospective rupture of organic causality.
The record was allegedly a means of the duo creating “an uncompromising recording through their personal search for new sounds, new ideas and new modes of self expression”, and it’s possible to hear the will to probe and explore being passed back and forth between them. One of my favourite examples is when “Same Place Every Time” is interrupted by a series bubbling didgeridoo farts (or it could be electronics – its difficult to tell), which nudges a quivering singing voice around the stereo frame as if to goad it toward greater strangeness. It’s not a record that relies on the contortions of FX to propel the search for new sounds, and while there’s nothing particularly unfamiliar about the rich finger-pluck of acoustic guitar or the punctuating stomps of tambourine, the eerie patterns of rhythm and melody through which they are forced hint toward an inner strangeness within either the instrument or composer, or both.