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"4tRECk - Almost complete ReCordings (1995-2007) 5xcdr"

4tRECk, aka London lo-fi multi-instrumentalist Sam Callow, has been hammering away at the portastudio for more than a decade, and 'Almost Complete Recordings' is a record of his progress so far. What could have been an intimidating trawl through one man's unspooling mind soon reveals itself as an embarrassment of lo-fi riches.

This five CD set overwhelms not because of the sheer volume of material, but rather because Callow seems to have been ahead of the game on so many counts: proto-Hauntology, Position Normal-style weird mood Musak and Francois de Roubaix spy movie intrigue rub up against Faustian bricolage and sweet natured acoustica. Unlike similarly 'eccentric' US tape manipulator Ariel Pink, part of whose appeal lies in his distinct lack of quality control, Callow's material hits the mark more or less every time and is rarely less than musically accomplished. He refers to his "detailed approach to arrangement and structure", and all these songs are exquisite miniatures that bear repeated listening and frequently prove naggingly memorable.

If Callow can be said to belong to any kind of lineage, then it's that of Joe Meek (particularly on the third disc, perhaps the pick of the bunch), Lawrence Hayward, XTC's Andy Partridge (whose Fuzzy Warbles demo series features wobbly instrumental intervals similar to those on display here) and the Ghost Box crew, talented artists working wonders within limitations either self-imposed or unavoidable.

Yet despite its monomaniacal origins, this is ego-free music, imbued with joy yet never cloyingly so. As Callow's cover versions of Survivor's 'Eye of the Tiger', the Airwolf theme and the Jesus Lizard's 'Slave Ship' (not included here) might suggest, his propensity for prettiness is balanced by an abiding attraction to supposedly unworkable juxtapositions. If this is what toil - or rather play - in relative obscurity is capable of producing, it's tempting to selfishly hope that 4tRECk remains a marginal figure, even if he deserves the widest possible audiences this kind of intimate music can attract.

WIRE 2007 by Joseph Stannard

- The Wire 2007


CDR albums:
No.5 (as part of 5 cd box set)
Music for Classroom Films

Official CD album:
Je Me Promenade (Partycul System)

7" Ep:
"Slave Ship"



In existence for about 11 years, 4tRECk / Sam CALLOW makes music based around approaches, such as spontaeneous improvisation, chance, using instruments (piano, guitar, violin, accordion, home-made stringed instruments, percussion, voice..) the "wrong" way, inventive (perhaps illogical) ideas, and detailed composition ... The results are entertaining, with a broad aural palette, and a melancholic undertow. (I'm not sure what an undertow is).