Label Spotlight: Spectrum Spools
by Philip Sherburne | November 29, 2011
The Cleveland trio Emeralds may play at stoner affect, but slackers they ain't. These three ambient ambassadors from the noise underground are not only responsible for dozens of tapes, CDRs and "official" albums, they also pursue multiple side projects. Steve Hauschildt recently released one of 2011's finest electronic albums, Tragedy & Geometry, on the Kranky label. Mark McGuire has put out three albums on Editions Mego in the past 13 months, in addition to a steady stream of cassettes, CDRs and vinyl-only LPs. And John Elliott might be the most prolific of all: in addition to his array of solo projects and side groups (among them Mist, Imaginary Softwoods and the vividly named Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks), he's also responsible for Spectrum Spools, a label offering an even broader view of Emeralds' brand of psychedelic synthesizer music.
Rippling drones are at the core of the Spectrum Spools aesthetic, which remains heavily indebted to the blissed-out electronic fantasias of Klaus Schulze, Edgar Froese, Harald Grosskopf and other analog cosmonauts. (You wouldn't expect anything else from a guy who also records as Outer Space.) But the Spectrum Spools catalog -- numbering an incredible nine albums so far, after just one year in operation -- ventures far beyond the traditional limits of "cosmic" synth music. Container's LP is mutant techno in the vein of Rephlex's early-'90s records, pummeling and unhinged, while Temporal Marauder's Temporal Marauder Makes You Feel -- allegedly a lost recording from the '70s by a Belgian musician with connections to Conny Plank -- runs the gamut from Suicide-style electrobilly to industrial skronk in the vein of Cabaret Voltaire or Throbbing Gristle. As for the more placid, conventionally ambient sectors of the Spectrum Spools universe, they range from kitschy prog impersonations to lie-on-the-floor-drooling bliss-out drone fests.