The noise drowned out the noise. It was late 2016 and the world was split open. November 11th, to be precise. As the temporal world melted with anxiety, metaphysical space became an asylum. Lee Bannon now operating as Dedekind Cut (Fred Welton Warmsley) gave the world $uccessor, a violent blast of a record that captured our collective ennui.
Surreal as it may be, that was 14 months ago. Sixty weeks. Time, the great paradoxical measurement, both the tortoise and the hare. In such a span the world’s great fire has grown bigger but the noise has quieted. For better or worse we are numb to the tumult and perhaps more tragically the halcyon. This passing created a question for Warmsley: Return bitter or warm?
When it was announced that Dedekind Cut’s follow up to $uccessor was to be released on Kranky the answer perhaps came sharper into focus. No doubt the label has its icier products such as Tim Hecker, but in my mind the label stands for ambience with warmth. Windy and Carl’s Depths, Valet’s Blood is Clean, the Dead Texan. These records operate as sonic blankets.
With this spirit in mind Tahoe is a decidedly calmer step into Dedekind Cut’s future. The album’s title refers to the lakeside town Warmsley now calls home. Tahoe is a place of staggering, tranquil serenity. In this sense, it is the perfect namesake for an album that offers a reprieve among the world of jagged noise the sound artist has created.
Right away the mortal breeze is blowing with opening track “Equity.” If it isn’t a sharp turn for Warmsley it is at least a pivot. $uccessor channeled power from the found-sound electronic hellscape, creating music in the mold of Daniel Lopatin or Tom Recchion; hyperactive and jutting stabs at consciousness. Equity, in contrast, would sound more at home on a Julianna Barwick record. The choral chant and the enveloping synth are a work of symbiotic invocation; an invite to amity.
The cascading warmth of Tahoe does not make it a fluorescent album by any means. To be clear, this is still a work that exists in the shadows and the marginal spaces of illumination. The heightened focus on field recordings give the album a naturalistic jaunt that creeps in and out, sometimes with malice and at other times without, as the opening number gives away, equity. “Hollow-Earth” is a 12-minute soundscape that turns the choral chanting of the earlier number into a droning inferno. Crickets, static and choirs lead down a hallway of dread.
Tahoe’s centerpiece is also the work that most recalls $uccessor’s suffering-riddled catafalque. “MMIXIX” spreads its fractious synth freak-out over nine minutes of innovative experimentation. When the track gives way to its digital echo of discord a Tuvan throat song invades the space. It is a moment that recalls the organ release of Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Chrome Country.” A moment that brings into focus the manic nature of sound art, focusing on the singular power of the secular voice.
Warmsley’s artistic quest has brought him here, to a record of astounding grace and full-fledged ingenuity. The best experimental music makes us question the nature of these sounds we carry with us. Tahoe does that and more by managing to open the gates of our sonic minds while still acting as a balm to a world burning more and more by the minute. Dedekind Cut is a vital art project for our time and Tahoe is yet another stark mission statement.