VARIOUS ARTISTS “Dialog Tapes” C44
(Dauw [CD companion on Eilean Recs.])

Belgium and France are two of my favorite places on Earth, so it’s no surprise that Dialog Tapes, an intra-label compilation featuring “duets” by artists from both the Dauw and Eilean Records stables, is a release whose excellence befits the home turf of its labels. See, Dauw is based in Ghent, Belgium, and Eilean is based somewhere in France, and each has really great taste in ambient/electroacoustic artists, making for superb pairings on these tracks. I can only imagine the label heads are equally good at pairing food and wine (or beer), because, you know, French and Belgian food and drink are, like, some of the best on the planet. Trust me.

Speaking of delicacy – or is that delicateness? I never know if I’m appropriately making up a word or just using it wrong – if there’s an adjective to describe the composition and execution of this release, it’s absolutely delicate. There’s such a light touch among the musicians that although each piece is a duet (across Internet space, anyway), everything sounds singular, like the artists were in each other’s heads while they were working separately. And each piece is absolutely gorgeous – see the opening lullaby “How Does It Feel” by Stijn Hüwels and Danny Clay, or the magnificent use of voice and brushed drums on “Alpine Carpet” by Ruhe and Twincities. Even the darker takes, such as “Over Land (Left Behind)” by David Andree and Miguel Isaza, or the heartbreaking renditions, like the string-heavy “Bloom and Fold,” which closes side B, by The Humble Bee and Aaron Martin, are peaceful and appropriate, never veering from intensity or focus.

I mention mainly the Dauw version of this release here, because the Eilean half was issued on compact disc, a format widely believed throughout the scientific community to be the natural enemy of the cassette. Therefore, discussing it here would have widely negative implications for everyone involved. However, under threat of immediate reprisal and lengthy incarceration, I recommend to you, my dear, dear readers and close spiritual friends, that you pick up the Eilean half as well, as it is just as good. *Uniformed special forces break down basement door, place writer in handcuffs, drag him up the stairs and into a waiting unmarked white van* Ow, let go of me you bastards! You'll never silence me! Freedom and equality for all formats! Don't weep for me readers, I'm still in your hearts! Ow, cut it out ... Is that a box of donuts on the dash? Can I have one?

--Ryan Masteller