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SHEFFIELD / RIPPIE - Essential Anomalies

Format: do-LP
Label & Cat.Number: Elevator Bath eeaoa043
Release Year: 2017
Note: COLIN A. SHEFFIELD and JAMES RIPPIE came finally together to re-activate their improvisational duo in 2015 - this double LP compiles 4 long, excellent tracks that were previously released as limited MCs => using turntables and samples from 'commercially available recordings', they create highly atmospheric, gloomy "abstract plunderphonics", extreme surrealistic soundscapes with unrecognizable sound sources, letting the original 'aura' shining through; lim. 293, over 90 min. playtime, great album!!
Price (incl. 19% VAT): €25.00

More Info

Colin Andrew Sheffield (sampler) and James Eck Rippie (turntables) began playing music together in Dallas, Texas in 2000 and released their debut LP, "Variations," a year later. They separated soon afterwards, relocating to cities 2,600 miles apart; and though they continued with solo work, they remained inactive as a duo until recently. During this hiatus, Sheffield stayed busy dealing antiquarian books and running his Elevator Bath label; Rippie became an accomplished sound mixer for major motion pictures and television shows. And yet the collaboration between these two friends of a quarter century has always held a special significance (as Francois Couture of AllMusic stated: "The level of understanding between [these two artists] ... commands respect"). So, in 2015, when the two found themselves both living in Austin, a reactivation of their improvising duo was a happy inevitability.

"Essential Anatomies" is the fruit of the pair's renewed efforts. Comprising four pieces originally issued on limited edition cassettes and now widely available for the first time, the double LP is an experiment in audio collage and instant narrative composition. The main tools are sounds from the past: commercially available recordings manipulated and sculpted into a medium with inherent potential. Unlike their plunderphonic ancestors and contemporaries, however, Sheffield and Rippie place a heavy emphasis on atmosphere and a kind of musicality. Their work is surprising and challenging, but it is infused with their keen sense of structure and listenability.
Elements of sound art, drone, glitch, and noise emerge from their altered samples. These sounds have been stripped of any extraneous cumbrances, leaving just the crucial components. The parts that remain, the essential anatomies, form the basis for an ongoing abstract dialogue between two artists with a remarkably developed affinity. The results capture dual streams of consciousness, coursing with a description of nonrepresentational beauty.

"[B]est described as abstract plunderphonics. Sheffield and Rippie use samplers and turntables to sculpt the past into new forms that defy instant categorization; suffice it to say that the old has never sounded so new."
- Richard Allen, A Closer Listen

"Essential Anatomies" has been released by Elevator Bath as a limited edition double LP, copies of which are also available here: www.elevatorbath.com

Mastered for vinyl by James Plotkin

Cover art by Eugenia Loli
released July 7, 2017

Colin Andrew Sheffield (b. 1976, El Paso TX) is the founder of the Elevator Bath recording label. He has released a number of solo recordings on labels such as Invisible Birds, Mystery Sea, Quiet World, and 23five.
James Eck Rippie (b. 1977) is a visual/sound artist originally from outside Nashville TN. His recorded work has been as a turntablist, but he has also worked extensively with other instruments and mediums. He has released his work with the Crnica Electronica and Sirr labels, among others, and has collaborated with sound artists Simon Whetham, Paulo Raposo, and eRikm.
Sheffield and Rippie will tour the US this summer.


"Compiling recent small-run cassette works into a luxurious double record set, Essential Anatomies represents a reunion for the duo of Colin Andrew Sheffield and James Eck Rippie. Collaborators since 2000 and friends for even longer, the four lengthy recordings here capture their Texas reunion in 2015, and with its undeniable sense of complexity and cohesion, makes it clear that they have not missed a step from their time apart.

On paper, what Sheffield and Rippie do is well-trod ground: processing and recontexualization of samples and other forms of pre-recorded music. But rather than being another pair of John Oswald wannabes, they do so with distinct expertise and precision. To use a slightly abstract metaphor, they are much closer to Public Enemys Bomb Squad production, taking bits here and there and using them as elements in a much different whole, than they are Puff Daddys wholesale plagiarism and lack of innovation.

The first of the four lengthy pieces (each around 22 to 23 minutes long) is an instant launch into the gloom that is Essential Anatomies. Chilling, piano like scrapes cut through a blackened, churning abyss of sound. Some shrill, sharp bits pierce through the darkness here and there, but the piece largely stays pleasant, even though it is rather bleak and covered in a nicely noisy sheen of fuzz. Tortured, almost melodic tones occasionally shine through a wall of ghostly drifts and heavy rumbles, at times heading toward a bit of harsh crunch, but stays in check. The melodies appear here and there again, acting as a slightly less oppressive counterpoint to the sound of decay that surrounds it. Finally, the duo end the piece on a lighter note, like sun shining through menacing gray skies.

What is abundantly clear right from this start is that Sheffield and Rippie are not only extremely proficient at creating moods and space with their samplers and turntables (respectively), but also a creating dynamic compositions that are quite expansive and varied, changing often but returning to reoccurring motifs that results in a more composed, rather than improvised sound. The second piece allows a bit more of their source material to shine through, mostly in the form of piano notes and what sounds like frozen reverberations of chimes far in the distance. There is the same sense of space, but erratic loops and mangled notes result in a composition that builds in tension, eventually transitioning into haunting church organ like walls that dominate the latter half of the piece.

Comparably, the second record comes across a bit less melodic and a bit more textural in the composition and structure. Part three begins with an almost percussive, crunching machinery like opening that is eventually melded with a batch of wet, almost organic like noises and radio static. Bits of recognizable music still sneak through here and there, but it is less the focus. Instead, metallic sweeps and unnatural field recording like sounds fill out the mix, though it ends on a slightly more ambient note. The final composition first is free and spacious, with some crackling tactile like elements at first, but soon it takes on a decaying sound. More organ and mangled string fanfares give a more conventional signpost here and there, but by the end the duo has already transitioned the sound to one of tension and fright, slowly evolving into an uncomfortable silence to end the record.

While I do not believe I could ever manage to place the source of the sounds Colin Andrew Sheffield and James Eck Rippie utilized in making Essential Anatomies, never does it feel like the two overly processed or from their source. Meaning that, there is some of the original character left from the source material, however subtle it may be. Instead these audio building blocks are obscured but tastefully utilized to construct these atmosphere heavy works. Rippies day job is a sound mixer for films and television shows, which surely aided the two in creating the cinematic mood that these two records conjure up. It is that combination of sonic nuance and compositional strength and diversity that make Essential Anatomies so good." [Creaig Dunton/Brainwashed]