Some days ago, I received an elaborately painted envelope enclosing some photocopied album art and a CDR. There's also a note with seemingly contradictory intentions: It's long and painstakingly handwritten on graph paper, yet addressed to the generic "Music Director." It's the kind of simultaneous attention and inattention to detail that goes into this batch of compositions by Burnout Warcry, a.k.a. Pittsburgh-based improviser Jim Storch.
The two longest pieces, "At Night" and "Walking Halfway Home (Thinking About You)," are each about 16 minutes in length. "At Night" builds slowly, beginning with bell-like clangs of distortion, while "Walking Halfway Home" is a modulated, delay-drenched squall of feedback and hum. Both could fit comfortably in the Hanson Records/American Tapes catalog, yet are probably the least satisfying tracks on offer here.
What they do, though, is heighten your listening threshold while dulling some conscious analysis of what you're hearing, setting you up for the sharp relief of the shorter, more lyrical pieces. "Sketchbook" turns a bagpipe chanter into a pulsing, almost vocal sound using distortion and delay, while "Empty Bottles, Empty Arms" builds electronic glitches around clattering marimba-like tones (a thumb piano?) resulting in a series of emotional peaks and valleys, melody and feedback. "Kissing a Roman Candle" begins with symphonic ghosts, barely a whisper in the ground hum, before giving way to fragments of melody -- a gentle, ethereal piece.
Obviously, conventional recording techniques don't apply here. But in some cases, it's hard not to feel that more sonic information could be conveyed; the opening track, for example, is almost entirely in one stereo channel, which doesn't seem ideal. Anyway, you probably can't buy this anywhere -- you know, how people ordinarily do. But it's definitely worth a listen at www.myspace.com/burnoutwarcry.