**300 copies** There are few labels in the contemporary landscape of experimental music that tow a line as vibrant and energetic as the Venice, Italy, based imprint 8mm Records. Founded in the early 2000s - offering special focus to free improvisation, free jazz, Japanese underground, new psychedelia, and DIY electronics - their carefully curated discography houses stunning releases by Stefano Pilia, Paul Flaherty & Weasel Walter, Ashtray Navigations, Bill Nace, Maurizio Abate, C. Spencer Yeh / Jon Wesseltoft, Joe McPhee / Eli Keszler, Arthur Doyle, and a slew of others, embracing a strikingly diverse number of visionary approaches to the radical potential of sound. Their latest, Winter Songs - a mind-bending LP from The Dead C’s Michael Morley working under his longstanding moniker, Gate - raises the imprint’s already high bar with thrilling expanses of hazy fuzzed out guitar drones, issued in a limited edition of 300 copies, and marking fascinating direction of exploration by one of most interesting artists working today.
First emerging during the mid-80s as a member of Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos - his duo with Richard Ram - Michael Morley came to prominence a handful of years later as the guitarist of The Dead C, the seminal outfit formed in 1986 in Dunedin, New Zealand, with Bruce Russell and Robbie Yeats, that played a central role in development of new concepts of noise and formed the heart of a global scene that developed around legendary labels like Flying Nun and Siltbreeze. While still a central axis within his activities to this day, The Dead C couldn’t entirely contain Morley’s expansive creative vision. In addition to his work as visual artist, a handful of year after the founding of the band he launched Gate, a solo guise that he would primarily release on his own label Precious Metal.
Via groundbreaking albums like Fear of Music, The Dew Line, and Saturday Night Fever, among others, as well as incredible live performances, over the decades Gate has risen in prominence equal to that of The Dead C, a fact that provokes little wonder when encountering Morley’s latest excursion under the name, Winter Songs. Sprawling across three long-form works - Night and Morning, Morning and Dusk and Evening and Night - Winter Songs builds on the ground that Gate has been exploring within recent albums like Highway Ghosts. Moving away from the more angular and confrontational temperaments that helped define his earlier efforts, the album sculpts a distinctly meditational space through durational tones generated by guitar, ranging from the sweeping ambience of its opener - percussive interventions processed by delay - to its metal tinged follow up that makes nods to stoner and sludge rock, before concluding with the intimate space constructed by low, minimal pulsing tones that stretch their way across the album’s entire second side with Evening and Night.
Inward looking and delicate, while bubbling with fury and life, Winter Songs weaves a fascinating direction forward for Gate after over three decades of activity, and is easily among our favorite of the project’s output to have graced our ears. Absolutely fantastic, engrossing, and as essential as they come. Issued by 8mm Records in a very limited edition of 300 copies on black vinyl with a stunning high-gloss sleeve, it stands tall among this year’s best.