Tiny Mix Tapes Review by Crawford Philleo:
"This tape by Matthew Dotson is probably not the most ideal choice for review in Cerberus, since it’s my understanding that these reviews are supposed to be pretty short in general. But the Chicago noisenik packs so many different ideas, textures, and inflections into this incredible collage of sounds and styles that I’m going to struggle to keep my thoughts on Excavation as brief here as possible. My understanding is that Dotson records most of his work live, with sound sources culled from collected recordings of his world travels (notably Japan for the A-side of this tape, which features some pretty prominent Koto playing somewhere in the first half). But a lot of this stuff feels more than just live tape mixing and manipulating of found sounds — everything feels very performed, from moments of break-beat/noise that reminds me of some of Mouse on Mars more free-form mind scrambles, or maybe even Aphex Twin, to some drowsy extensions of electric guitar tones that drift into downtrodden post-rock, like outtakes from an older Tortoise LP strung together into a medley of beauty, intrigue, and general craziness. Aside from the sheer variety of sounds, and the complexity with which everything is woven together (truly excellent pacing through all of this, by the way), dynamics and solid understanding and exploitation of the stereo space are also some of Dotson’s stronger suits. Both sides are deep and compelling excursions into environments that remain hopelessly musical. That is, Excavation is a real album to be listened to for those basic musical elements in addition to being a tapestry of noises giving us something to awkwardly stare at in confused wonder."
Cassette Gods Review by Jeff Daily:
"Matthew Dotson brings to mind my enthusiasm for the eclectic works of Jim O'Rourke. Not the melodic guitar/pop, but the found sound, noise, esoterica collage experimental stuff. Dotson's Excavation is a challenging listen and with two side-long pieces of music, patience is key. If this kind of electronic music is your kind of thing, listen to this album because it exudes quality. Side A is an unedited live performance of found sounds from around Japan. The rise and fall of the gurgling electronics creates a forward momentum that seems composed. If recordings of frogs from Connecticut and guitar & bass feedback sounds like a dynamic duo, you will LOVE side B. For me, I'm more a side A kinda guy. The B side is just as well-crafted as the A side, but less compelling. Either way Matthew Dotson is a talent and someone to pay attention to."
Weed Temple review:
"Matthew Dotson’s “Excavation” is an hour long trip through experimental, electroacoustic soundscapes which don’t feel afraid to get really hardcore at times. This Chicagoist travels the world to look for new sources of sound and often accidental inspiration. Side A, for instance (both sides are untitled on this cassette, by the way), was recorded in Japan and influenced by traditional Japanese music, but thrown (temporarily) into an abyss of noise distortion. The opening minutes are filled with oriental string bliss with a melancholic, longing edge disturbed only by the recorded sounds of casual conversations - the album does not give any information whether side A was a recording of a live performance or just a skillfully arranged sampled composition. Probably both.
The melancholic plucking of a string instrument gets drowned out in the sea of increasingly brutal, glitchy power electronics that bring to mind the harshest moments of Autechre’s “Gantz Graf” stretched over the period of a few minutes. Once we’re behind this wall of noise, another stretch of experimentation begins - first barely audible, then louder and more intense, Dotson plays around with various percussion instruments - the sort of esoteric, seemingly directionless clatter Chris Corsano does so well. Then, the final “movement” of side A begins: Dotson harnesses the electronics once again, but instead of brutal assault, he makes some cold, metallic drones that gets more and more intense to the final all-swallowing dark ambience which makes everything around rumble.
Side B is slightly more accessible, with less focus put on abstract sound-art and more into drones and ambience. Gone is the people’s chatter and found sounds, this side is much less “polluted” with sound, instead focusing on the slowly expanding amorphous, bulging mass of gradually more bassy and abrasive electronics. Actually, there comes a moment when this menacing mass sounds like as if it was ready to spill out of whatever you’re listening this album on (cassette deck, computer, mp3 player etc.) and spill out into the material world as a black blob which is ready to consume anything. Thankfully, suddenly the noise is cut short and replaced with near silence, which isn’t all much better - despite being much quieter, it’s still lingering in the shadows, creeping out the listener with ghostly reverb, getting more and more rhythmical and finally becoming a maniacal, incredibly busy, glitched out IDM that could easily be mistaken for some much more famous producer.
If the previous 50 minutes of listening was challenging and diffcult, the last 10 minutes of side B provide a sort of reward for those who managed to sit through all the glitches, noise, threatening drones and found sound experiments: a very relaxing krautrock/ambient pop piece driven by bass, electric guitar and drum machine that doesn’t fall far away from “Zuckerzeit”-era Cluster or the Californian autobahn maniac FWY! A total surprise and a compelling counterpoint to all the intense, unclassifiable music that’s happening throughout the rest of the tape, which proves that Matthew Dotson feels good both at the avant-garde end of the spectrum and while making down-to-earth driving tunes. Recommended."
released August 29, 2012
Music by Matthew Dotson
Mastering for Tape by Michael Taylor
Artwork by Bart Woodstrup
Design by Dan Mohr
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