Anla Courtis: Tape Works

Pogus 21040




OK so by now you should all know that the FALKLANDS WAR had nothing at all to do with “protecting British sovereignty” or whatever the newspapers shat out at the time – the reason for sending the British Navy halfway round the world had more to do with OIL than saving the ass of half a dozen farmers and about TWO MILLION SHEEP, and in reclaiming the South Atlantic for HM THE QUEEN (or maybe that should read BP THE KING) Maggie Thatcher (who btw has recently been showing signs of the same terminal amnesia that struck down her ol’ buddy Ronnie – amazing, you fuck up the planet and can’t even go to your grave feeling guilty about it) deprived the world of what would have been the greatest work in Argentine music history THE TWO MILLION SHEEP SYMPHONY by none other than REYNOLS (and if you don’t know who Reynols are I’m seriously wondering how this particular disc came into your possession, but just in case you really have no idea paste this into your browser and get the hell out of the way of my liner notes) who had to settle for TEN THOUSAND CHICKENS instead. And Reynols’ Anla Courtis (funny, I thought he was actually called Alan but the what the hell do I know after all I could be DYSELXIC) had to spend the next 14 years (until the interplanetary success of Poliestireno Expandido on Matching Head) creating the music on this disc by mucking around with wire plugs (Studio for Wire Plugs), recording his kitchen door (Asma de Tia de Alga), squatting somebody else’s Micromoog (Invisible Clown Sonata), scavenging used radio station reel-to-reels of radio commercials from trashcans (RespirÈ un Cordero) and spending a fortune sending tapes of his music all the way to Bourges (Reducido a Hemorragia de Merluzas) where they probably ended up in another trashcan for somebody else to recycle. Hats off again to Pogal Honcho Al Margolis then for serving up yet another disc of THE MUSIC THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT – Anla’s in good company with Leo Kupper, Kenneth Gaburo, David Dunn, Jorge Antunes and Rune Lindblad, to name but five of Margolis’ road warriors. Meanwhile any hopes I had of ever getting funding from the Arse Council of Great Britain to stage an Anglo-Argentine Reunion Concert in Port Stanley dematerialised as spectacularly as Reynols’ first album Gordura Vegetal Hidrogenada when COURTIS was refused entry into the UK recently, he claims because he had a BEARD (but if you ask me it didn’t help matters much that he told the bloke from HM Customs that he came from a PARALLEL UNIVERSE – you just don’t joke with those buggers), but I shouldn’t complain because that’s how I ended up meeting him in the first place, since when I’ve been trying to get hold of the entire Reynols discography, which is of course impossible and would probably cost more than my one way ticket to the MALVINAS for starters. So while you worry about not being able to find a copy of the 8CD Reynols 10th Anniversary Box Set (Valuba Mafiforo) or the 10” mirror disc Vedeosmas Tecretre (Raoul’s Left Ear), just thank your lucky stars you’ve got hold of THIS. Whaddya meanI don’t talk much about the music you’ve got EARS haven’t you?

—Dan Warburton,

For Reynols, everything was possible.


It shouldn’t be surprising that there are several histories as to the origins of Reynols(*), depending on who you ask. Miguel Tomasin claims he started the band in 1967, when he was three years old banging around on pots and pans in the kitchen. But according to fellow Argentines Alan Courtis and Roberto Conlazo, Reynols didn’t start until 1993, when Tomasin came to them for drum lessons, all the while introducing himself as “the world’s most famous drummer.” Shortly there after, Tomasin renamed his instructors Anla and Robeto, names which have outlasted the physical incarnation of Reynols. Nonetheless, it was in 1993 when the three launched their unusual career of avant-rock dissonance and post-Fluxus re-engineering of everyday objects. Through the vehicle of Reynols and their countless recordings, Tomasin developed a complex mythology with a language of his own construction and a parallel universe called Minecxio that encapsulates all seemingly contradictory elements in its own Mobius-stripped logic. Albums dematerialized before they were released; symphonies were constructed using thousands of chickens; delirious rock mantras crunched with caterwauling vocals; even Pauline Oliveros agreed to collaborate with these three quixotic musicians. If anything, Reynols presented post-rational strategies for the superimposition of multiple perspectives that allowed for the impossible to become possible.


A key piece to the Reynolsian puzzle remains a sensitive subject: Tomasin was born with Down Syndrome. Early on in their career, Reynols had been tracked down by a number of journalists in their native Argentina, where they appeared on numerous daytime talk shows and in tabloid newspapers. Most of the media gawked in shock and disbelief that a serious band would allow itself to follow Tomasin’s flights of fancy; and occasionally, the media lobbed charges of exploitation upon Courtis and Conlazo. Yet, this is very far from the truth of their methodology. Where Dada and Surrealism tapped into the illogic of the human psyche, Reynols have achieved a similar communion with the post-rational by encouraging Tomasin to be exactly who he is and to explore his gifts in superimposing multiple perspectives. If anything, Courtis and Conlazo were merely the engineers and flight attendants for Tomasin’s extravagant voyages.


Yet all good things must come to an end. Anla Courtis continues to produce music and was even quite prolific during his time in Reynols. It goes without saying that Courtis learned a thing or two from his experience in Reynols; and there’s a fundamental constant to all of his work: the cassette. One of Reynols’ most infamous albums Blank Tapes was pieced together from the endemic hiss from, you guessed it, blank tapes. Far from being an empty album of silences, Blank Tapes is extraordinarily dynamic, amplifying the magnetic energy of the tape hiss into undulating fluctuations that mirror the somatic patterns of the human body. Reynols’ tapes have a heart beat, blood pumping through their veins, and oxygen rushing through thier lungs.


This crudely build anthropomorphism continues in Courtis’ work today, as the cassette and the tape deck remain primary tools in his compositional sensibility. Courtis himself explains: “Well to be honest for many years the cassette was the only medium I had to record music. Maybe this is because Argentina is always a bit behind in technology, or because I was never interested in having “the new thing.” It might sound ridiculous but mainly my overdubbing work until now has been basically in a Portastudio. Maybe, this is just an old friend I don’t think is necessary to leave; but on the other hand, there is a lot you can do with 4 channels... I mean there is no sense to discard old technology because you have a new one. A pen is technology; you don’t need to kill the pen because now you have a mouse! In fact there are some things you can do with my old reel-to-reel that you cannot do with a disk drive, I mean pushing the tape, changing the aleatory speed... there are a bunch of unpredictable irregular things you can do with this old machine. In this sense, I think we should find a way to make different technologies live somehow together.”


It is in this context that Anla Courtis presents Tape Works, a collection of material that dates back to the early ‘90s. Here, Courtis splatters dense slabs of petrified tones with spasmodic algorithms, dissembodied vocal samples that spiral into a electric chorale, and hot-wired musique concrete techniques, all buried under the weight of the mighty distortion pedal. Once again, all things are possible for Anla Courtis.

— Jim Haynes


(*) Note: the band started first as Burt Reynols Ensamble in 1993 with Roberto Conlazo, C.D.(Christian Dergarabedian) and Alan Courtis, later that year they met Miguel Tomasin. C.D. left the band in early 1995 and the name was slowly changed to Reynols.

Talking about a tape-works record in the ‘90s might sound rather anachronistic but, be it because of Argentina’s technology lag or for some other mysterious reason, I did not get hold of a computer to work with sound until 1999. That’s why the sound experiments I’ve worked on throughout the last decade are mainly tape explorations. This CD contains a selection of re-mastered tape-works dating from the period 1991-1998. Below, you’ll find some brief comments and additional information on each piece that will help listeners... or confuse them even more.

ASMA DE TIA DE ALGA (10’ 27”) Recorded in 1994 at Ornitivo Studios (Buenos Aires), using analog tape techniques and diverse analog & digital processing. Although this piece is not formally divided, it clearly shows three different parts. Its sound sources were obtained from urban and home recordings “starring” the squeak of my kitchen door in the last section. Asma de Tia de Alga is perhaps my first attempt to deal with “electro-acoustic serious music” and it was premiered at the Open-air Electro-acoustic Music Concerts organized by Jorge Antunes in 1996 in Brasilia.

RASTRILLO-TERMOTANQUE (3’01”) This is probably the only work I ever made using a CD player as sole sound source. Only in 1993 did I become the owner of a CD player and, at the time, this proved an intriguing piece of technology. The track contains processed CD samples, many of them recordings by the group Santos Luminosos (H. Nuñez- A. Jankowsky) with whom I collaborated in those days. Years later, a friend showed me a whole CD by a German group based on a similar technique… The version here presented is a new mix from the original masters since the original mix got lost somewhere.

JARABE DE LLANURA (5:12) This composition was made from water sounds around 1996. The approach contrasts bluntly with that of New Age trends: the idea here was to find the “noise” uses of water by processing water with the distortion pedals of the electric guitar set. On my first released tape (Poliestireno Expandido. Matching Head. UK.1996), this combination was spontaneously called “Hydro-Distortion”. In certain passages of this piece, water performs better than any human guitarist indeed. Or maybe it just turns into a kind of liquid Hendrix…

RESPIRÉ UN CORDERO (2:42) In mid-1994, while walking in a street of downtown Buenos Aires, I found in a trash can a bunch of reel-to-reel tapes that seemed to have been discarded by a closed down radio station. I ran back home to check the tapes on my old Uher Variocord 263. All of them but one featured teenage-band music; the exception proved to be an absolute gem. This was a short tape containing a radio commercial for baby clothes of an unknown brand that had probably had a short existence in the ‘70s. It resorted to an absurd repetition of voices that I re-worked by adding layers of voice with reverb and delay processing. The commercial ends up with the ridiculous phrase “Changuito te viste desde que abrís los ojitos” (Changuito clothes you from the very moment you open your little eyes…)

REDUCIDO A HEMORRAGIA DE MERLUZAS (11:32) After Asma de Tía de Alga came a new attempt to make an “electro-acoustic” piece, this time combining micromoog with diverse processed acoustic sound sources. Here I aimed to work with long silence chunks (despite the obvious hiss of the tape); this becomes specially clear in the middle section of the work. The recording process took place in my own bedroom around 1995, and it was pretty complex. At first, the results were frustrating —maybe because I was dealing with intrincate ideas and cheap technology—, but later, with the sudden help of a messy graphic score, the composition was finally completed. The piece was sent to Bourges Electro-Acoustic Competition… with no success.

STUDIO FOR WIRE PLUGS (2:26) As the title suggests, the only stuff played in this piece are wire plugs. The click of the wire plug when touched makes the main riff here. When I started playing guitar, I hated so much the sound produced when plugging the electric guitar that I ended up thinking this could become an interesting sound input for a composition. Wires are antennas that capture vibrations from ether; so, if I’m not wrong, the frequencies on these recordings were basically caused by electric flows from human body (in fact from my own hands!) . These sessions of wire-plug action were recorded in the early ‘90s. I did not yet have a portastudio in those days, so I resorted to a rather primitive technique: amplifying the signal of the wire plug with a walkie-talkie transmitter and recording the line out on a cassette deck with a cheap recycled cassette inside.

INVISIBLE CLOWN SONATA (2:52) In 1994, a German composer who wanted to move to Buenos Aires brought along a huge container from Germany. Since he couldn’t find a place to drop his stuff, I gave him a hand by letting him store most of it at home. Among the objects, that occupied a whole room, I found a Micromoog analog synthesizer, a nice model featuring a strange pitch-bend-pad of a kind no longer available. It was actually the first synth I ever worked with, and between 1994 and 1998 I made several recordings trying to explore its possibilities. This short piece is maybe a tribute to the fresh classic analog sound offering what might be (or not) circus music from an invisible galaxy…

ENCIAS DE VIENTO (1996) (16:27) This track was entirely constructed by processing tapes that contained recordings of a short electric guitar loop. In those days I found sustain fascinating but I lacked instruments with “real” sustain. All I had was a digital delay with a one-second sampling. Thus, in this piece, I attempted diverse tape manipulations in order to turn the short guitar loop into a full sound surface. Although this did not work at first, adding some reverb and reducing the tape speed gave —after several attempts— better results. At that time, I was absolutely ignorant of the fact that this kind of music was called “drone”, and I only discovered the term when reading some of the reviews on my first tape releases. Several versions of this sound source have been published under different names; the piece here included, however, was re-mastered from the original file.



Recorded and Mixed by A.Courtis at

Ornitivo Studios, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1991-1998.


Technical equipment employed:

Uher Variocord 263 reel-to-reel tape recorder,

Tascam 03, Art SGX LT, Equalizer MXR,

Micromoog, DOD FX55B Supradistortion.


Digitally mastered at ∞(∞)∞ Studios, 2003.


Many Thanks to:

Al Margolis, Dan Warburton, Jim Haynes, Pauline Oliveros, Damo Suzuki, Koji Tano,The Nihilist Spasm Band, RLW, Lasse Marhaug, Makoto Kawabata, Kouhei Matsunaga, Toshimaru Nakamura, Mats Gustafsson, Patricia Martinez, Hernan Nunez, Andres Jankowsky,Tetuzi Akiyama, Paz Levinson, Reynols’ crew and all my family.


Samples on track 2 courtesy of Possible Productions

Photos by Clarisa Courtis

Translation Assistance by Corina Courtis

Overseas Assitance by Christian Courtis

Global Assistance by Ana Maria Marcol

Design by Matthew Schickele



1 Asma de Tía de Alga (1994) 10:27’’

2 Rastrillo-Termotanque (1995) 3:01

3 Jarabe de Llanura (1996) 5:12

4 Respiré un Cordero (1994) 2:42

5 Reducido a Hemorragia de Merluzas (1995) 11:32

6 Studio for Wire Plugs (1991) 2:26

7 Invisible Clown Sonata (1998) 2:52

8 Encías de Viento (1996) 16:27