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Feature ArticleAnla Courtis - Tape Works (Vital)

Anla Courtis - Tape WorksNow back to his real name Alan Courtis, this still comes out under the misspelled Anla Courtis moniker (a slight name change given to him by his former Reynols companion Miguel Tomasin), as it features music from the time he was still called Anla. Even whilst being in Reynols for most of the 90s and early years of the new century (and releasing a sludge of records accordingly) he also always made his own music. This was mostly made through the use of tapes, as he apparently didn't get a computer until 1999. Not sounding like the best idea for some progressive experimental music he actually manages to instill these tape works with lots of innovative sound spells. "Rastrillo-Termotanque" is three minutes of CD torturing in the best possible Oval way, without ever really sounding like them, a real accomplishment. Or "Studio for Wire Plugs" which is exactly made up out of only that. It doesn't all work though. "Jarabe De Llanura" is made up out of water sounds, apparently to show the ,other side' of the possibilities of water, meaning more noisy, and not new agey. It maybe works when you don't know that it's all water, but as soon as you read the nice liner notes it falls flat really. But that's only rarely, as most of it seems to hold my attention throughout. Even the more electro-acoustic pieces have a certain hands-on quality, which give these works a certain charming quality, and prevents it from falling into the trap of contemporary musique concrète. (RM)

An absolutely stunning mastery over his machines.

Sometimes, one can’t help but feel that there are two Anla Courtis. The first one founded Reynols with a couple of friends in 1993 or so and put Argentina firmly on the map of the experimental scene. Dan Warburton, editor of the “Paris Transatlantic” Webzine and the man whose liner notes open the informative booklet, has reported on a couple of the bands’ efforts and the impact it has had on the underground community – selling empty CD boxes, plugging their gear into pumpkins, adding a bag of sand to each album, so you could create your own beach if only you bought enough CDs. If one had never heard a single note of music, Anla Courtis would have to be a madman.

There is, however, a second Anla Courtis. A man, who was forced to develop a practical creativity, who smiled in the face of the impossible and who had to work with what today would rather be considered junk than equipment – the tape machine on the front cover of this collection spanning seven years of music is not a cheap gimmick, comparable to the stylish retro-chique of certain techno samplers, but in fact the main tool Courtis used for sound manipulation and recording. A keyboard, a sampler, a sequencer, software synthesis – all of these were magic words from foreign countries and it is with this in mind that one can understand why Courtis, just like a little boy on Christmas eve, could hardly keep his cool upon on discovering a box of discarded tapes in a trash can outside of a closed-down radio station one day (they proved to be unusable, except for a tiny snippet, which ended up forming the backbone of “respire un cordero”). And yet he never complained and in fact still today uses the old (or should I say familiar) technology of his early days, rightly remarking that there is no sense in discarding them merely for progress’ sake. What “Tape Works” shows so very clearly is the absolutely stunning mastery over his machines, the confidence with which he approaches sound, recognises its strenghts and weaknesses, its potential and possible new purposes, its aesthetics and various ambiances, its hidden characteristics and processing possibilities. Not once do these pieces sound forced or mechanical, instead they progress with a remarkable ease and the fluidity of a human ensemble. On “Jarabe de llanura”, Anla plays water sounds through a distortion pedal and in the seventeen minute “Encias de viento” a short guitar loop is cut up, chaffed, spliced and stretched into a seemingly neverending malestrom of noise. The shorter pieces, meanwhile, are colourful miniatures with bubbling and shimmering surfaces.

More than anything, this is intended as a representative body of work, not a hermetically sealed compilation. Breaks and sudden transitions are not necessary evils, but consciously part of the deal – “Tape Works” is a document of trying, of victory and failure, of small rewards and of a decade, which in retrospect sounds every inch as fresh and exciting on paper as this album will on your stereo. Most important of all, it always shows Anla Courtis as a composer with an insatiable thirst for experimentation and different forms of expression - and never as a man split in two. By Tobias Fischer, Tokafi

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