Review: A.M. Shiner – Bad Cop (Stunned Records, 2011)

West Coast based sonic outsider Andrew Michael Shiner has been long connected to the obscurist cassette label Stunned Records, and his Bad Cop is apparently the last cassette released before his retirement. Similarly to his buddy M. Geddes Gengras, AMS has been crafting post-musique concrete soundscapes on his releases, blending the cold electronic avant-garde synthesis of Karlheinz Stockhausen or early Delia Derbyshire with zoned out New Age mystic jamz. Thole c40something cassette consists of two untitled sides. Shiner fills his tape space with a sort of lo-fi, weirded-out version of “standard” experimental electronic collages that is the staple of many (if not most) Stunned Records releases.

The line between the academic approach to composition and the free-flowing, mystical New Age-isms here is blurred, resulting in a sound a professor of musicology would create if he suddenly turned to Hippies and LSD and their worldview (a bit like a musical version of Tim Leary). Like the beginning minutes of side A, which sound like a psych folk exploration through the eye of tape experimentalism with some field recordings mixed in for a good measure. Additionally, this whole collage of sound is submersed in a lovely lo-fi, rumbling bassy haze, as if pulled out of some vast sound archive or whether it was a one-off mind-bending electronic exploration recorded by some quiet outsider in their bedroom and miraculously surviving until modern times despite being recorded on only one cassette. This is the strong point of this album (and of all releases by Stunned in fact): it is not anchored in time, the chronological borders of this album are blurred, just like the line between the circuit-based oblivion and bleep-blooping bliss.

A.M. Shiner prefers not to name his tracks, deciding instead in the nebulous “untitled” category. Both sides are untitled and counted as full tracks, even though they are constructed (as all collages should be) from longer and shorter snippets of madness, often ending or starting abruptly (with the lovely clicks of ending and beginning the recording still left in), and even some juvenile humor (like some guy, probably AMS himself, uttering some gibberish in a hilariously deformed voice with some other guy laughing in the background). Bad Cop is a riveting (even if somewhat chaotic and unordered) exploration of the creator’s mind. Too bad it will probably be the last such insight.


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