Birchville Cat Motel
Beautiful Speck Triumph
Last Visible Dog
irchville Cat Motel is Campbell Kneale, a solo artist from New Zealand. And while details regarding his full discography are hard to find, considering his penchant (or necessity) for CD-R and limited run releases, it’s safe to say that Beautiful Speck Triumph is the first large scale release that encompasses more than a single disc of running time. Luckily, much like Stars of the Lid’s excellent Tired Sounds double disc set, the music inside
Emerging with little more than the crackles of signal noise and a resonant hum, “White Ground Elder” tentatively starts the album. A sliver of feedback soon emerges, carefully edged towards the periphery of the proceedings by Kneale, who employs it as the main melodic appeal during the piece’s opening minutes. The feedback soon falls away and is given over to the droning hum as it makes its way to the fore and begins to mutate into a ferocious beast. A beast that moans and creaks its way through a number of minutes before finding its footing and coalescing back into a sustained (and contained) sound. The end, characterized by a coda of chirping noises, comes slowly and develops over the course of a number of minutes before eventually fading into the next track, “Trembling Frost Spires”.
And while it’s quite similar to the preceding thirty-minute epic, it differs in its attention to melodics. Frantically clattering wind chimes present themselves over the droning backdrop, melding effortlessly with the rich sedimental stream of electronic frippery that intertwines with it.
But, even as “Trembling Frost Spires” hints at it, the overt organ tones of “Speck Fears” come as somewhat of a surprise. Notes that are, in the context of the piece, easily understood begin to unfurl in the sound field overlapping one another, creating atonal clusters of a rich harmonic depth that has been absent from the previous three-quarters of an hour.
And this is all just the first disc. The second part of Kneale’s magnum opus emerges much like John Cage’s “Organ2/ASLSP”, holding one note the entire length of the piece and slowly adding elements (other organ notes, bleeps and, finally, a melody), to its base.
And while “The Romance Of Certain Old Clothes” (clothes being a personal touchstone for much of Kneale’s work, oddly) sounds vaguely similar to its first disc analogue, “Trembling Frost Spires”, the title track makes up for the possibility of Kneale repeating himself by, somehow, being exactly what its title foretells.
Composed, seemingly, of droning organ melody, a plodding drum beat, and intense wavering Branca guitars that cut through the sound plane to reveal the album for exactly what it is: Kneale’s triumphant recorded moment.
The pastoral coda doesn’t hurt either.