Cowtown

Frank spent his adolescence in a cowtown, this one a small industrial city in an agricultural region. The humans were surrounded by dairy cattle. The city even erected a statue to one cow, the "Springbank Snow Countess", a champion butterfat producer of the 1930s.

The cattle may have outnumbered the people, but they showed no obvious signs of revolt. Perhaps they held terrifying rituals all night long: Frank heard them stampeding and bellowing wildly in the impenetrable darkness. But he could never see a thing. 

From 1989 to 1990, four friends - David Butler, Frank Koustrup, Kevin Curtis-Norcross, and Scott Norcross - gathered synthesizers, samplers, computers, musical instruments, effect pedals, toys, and percussion around a tape recorder. They would jam until the tapes ran out. 

Eventually, Frank mixed and edited these celebrations of synthesizers, echo, feedback, and mystery. He put the name "Cowtown" to this music, in remembrance of the ruminant beasts. 

Moo 1 

2'09; Dave Butler, Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

During an unseasonably cold Sunday in August, David, Frank, Kevin, and Scott gathered for a last jam session. The clouds were low, grey, and brooding; the wind was strong. The musicians recorded live to short cassettes, the longest ran 3 minutes. When the last tape ran out, the music stopped. The starting sample – the impulse – was a cow mooer. What’s that, you ask? A mooer is a cardboard tube that you tip over. When you tip it back upright, an internal weight slides past some grooves to make a moo-like sound. 

Drone 

5'39; Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

Washes of growling samples, steady loops and synthesizer tones create a tense and mysterious drone that is carried by the steady pulse of a muffled guitar and interrupted by voice, viola, and piano. 

Moo 2 

2'16; Dave Butler, Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

On humid summer evenings, the smell of cow dung wafted into town and reminded of the imposing presence of the surrounding ungulates. 

Aaah 

5'50; Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

A thick texture and synthesizer outbursts evolve to an atmosphere of 10cc-like vocal samples to create a steady tone of solitude. 

Moo 3 

1'58; Dave Butler, Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

A trio of boys would ride their bicycles into the country and would pause beside fields of cattle and "moo" as loudly as possible. The cows stopped their grazing or chewing and stared. They just stared. What were they thinking? Did they think that the boys were very small cattle? Or very stupid humans? Were they embedding memories of their observations before transmitting reports to the overlords in Deep Space? 

After a few moments, the boys got bored and rode along to be chased by the dogs at the next farm. 

Go West Young Man 

4'07; Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

A synthesized voice repeats Horace Greeley's famous advice. 

A relentless pace drives forward like a train taking you westward as the blockages and small tragedies of the life you leave behind pick at your memories. What will this new life become? The only thing certain is that no one will be waiting when you arrive. 

Frank took Greeley's advice and spent a year in Vancouver. He returned on an eastbound transcontinental bus; that four-day experience changes you, maybe genetically. The wheels keep rolling as you take a long look at the land ... so much land. 

Moo 4 

0'47; Dave Butler, Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

This city was also surrounded by corn, corn that fed the cattle. 

The same boys who rode into the countryside, also played in cornfields. They would split up and hunt each other. They hurled cobs but never managed to hit anyone. 

Fields of Flowers 

9'18; Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

The synthesizers sizzle and pulse insistently while Scott improvises on echoey vocals. Oh, such pretty flowers! The ending cuts to melancholy pluckings. 

Moo 5 

2'48; Dave Butler, Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

Well after sunset, bovine rituals begin, campfires are ignited, invocations are chanted, and supplications are bellowed. A terrifying waltz begins to swirl heatedly. Hot bodies are anointed with holy oils. How can this satanic barbecue end? Oh, Baal! 

Pawn Shop Synthesizer 

6'28; Frank Koustrup, Scott Norcross 

As university students, Frank and Scott would meet for supper and a beer on Friday evenings after class, then tour the pawn shops. At the time, you could find vintage analog synthesizers at reasonable prices. 

Scott patched together two of these synthesizers and generated the base ring-modulated pulse. Much later, Frank used a pair of low-power FM-radio transmitters and a tape recorder to vary the pulse with distorted and slowed layers. The radios were an attempt to find out what Deep Space had on its mind. It was not much and it was everything: Deep Space hissed. 

Moo 6 

2'39; Dave Butler, Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

For a science project in high school, Frank tried to construct a methane generator from a large glass jar, a rubber hose to a can of water, a Bunsen burner, and enough cow shit to fill the jar. Overnight while in storage, the methane generator exploded. 

Not from any flames, but simply from pressure. It seems that the gas built up and shot the lid off the jar, coating the walls of the storage closet in shit right up to the ceiling. The glass of the jar did not break or even crack. 

Frank had to clean up. His partner on the project was absent and probably too stoned to get to the school bus. 

Accordion Door 

5'12; Frank Koustrup, Scott Norcross 

Tape loops and samples - a New York-accented "accordion door" and a fragment of viola da gamba - are run through the rich sound of a pair of half-track tape machines wired together for echoes. Feedback controlled from a mixer rumbles and blends with percussion, a harmonizer, and sharp blips. 

Moo 7 

0'38; Dave Butler, Frank Koustrup, Kevin Norcross, Scott Norcross 

Final sacrifices at the bovine rituals have been dispatched. The pulse slows as the coals begin to cool; they remain hot to the touch. 

Pulse 

19'06; Dave Butler, Frank Koustrup, Scott Norcross 

This meditative passacaglia echoes across occasional interruptions and surges. Pulse is long as it stretches out a pastoral mood.