Wheat and Rust was American composer and electronic musician Tim Story’s fourth and final album for the tiny but influential Norwegian label Uniton/Cicada. It was released in 1987, just on the cusp of the greater renown he would enjoy the following year with his Glass Green record, and a Grammy nomination soon after. Rust Smudges, the artist’s latest work, is an unlikely deconstruction of Story’s own Wheat and Rust, a haunting acknowledgement of time passed and the artistic evolution that has propelled Story, 30 years on, through an unpredictably varied and idiosyncratic career.
Rust Smudges is both a distillation of the artist’s recent audio installations that re-contextualizes existing material into new forms and experiences, and his unabashed fondness for an audio process that he deprecatingly dubs ‘smudging’. Originally developed simply for his own enjoyment and inspiration, these tone poems are built essentially by submitting harmonically-rich, looped phrases of other people’s music to a process that freezes and ‘smudges’ them. The aural equivalent of watching a movie by viewing only one frozen frame every 5 seconds, with everything in between lost, the hazy apparitions that result cycle through hypnotic, constantly-evolving landscapes both enigmatically abstract and warmly familiar.
For Rust Smudges, Story manipulated all 12 pieces of his ’87 release, creating two completely new ambient tracks. It marks the first time the composer has submitted his own recorded music to these unconventional processes, and his pairing of early work with an inherently fragile playback medium crystallizes – and subverts – the distances between youthful exuberance and the inevitable, humbling passage of time. Wheat and Rust’s original tracks proved ideal for the proceedings, Story’s trademark harmonic language was blooming by the late 80’s, creating in the smudges a warmly epic contrast to the icy blurs the digital synths impart. The stately, ambiguous progressions that result are profoundly ruminative - reducing active melodies and intricate arrangements into a deep largo of harmony and timbre the way memory softens sharp narratives into transitory pulses of feeling and recollection.
In the process of reworking music from his past, Story manages to put his own melancholy ‘meta’ fingerprint on a cassette culture that was in its first generation when he and his fellow explorers first exploited it in the 70’s, out of necessity rather than choice.
Release Date: October 7, 2022
- Cassette (ltd 300)