Several tracks on "Shlubby Dreamer," an album of 13 wordless, ambient, occasionally disturbing tape-loop compositions by Florida=Death bassist Greg Fraulo (who records as Krem on Wool), serve up a single musical idea, and then invite you to witness its dissolution.
In the opener, "Millennial Wet Dream," that idea is an arpeggiated F major triad, looped for several minutes before falling apart, amid washes of white noise, quick left-right pans and envelope-filter effects. On "Temporal Marker," two crumbling, fragile pipe organs play a minor chord, out of phase, one in each ear.
Some songs are decidedly sinister — a vocal loop in "Umbilical" suggests black metal-shrieking, as it pans relentlessly over chattering, skittering noises, located dead center in your headphones. And some, like "Transfiguration of Wool," the longest song on "Shlubby Dreamer" (and one without a clear pulse) are stable, even comforting. Most tracks are, at minimum, two-part ideas; loops dissipate, and new sections, with drone-like chants, disruptive gaps, muffled voices from a crackling radio, take over.
Fraulo, 32, lives in Meriden and works a third-shift job at a gas station on the Merritt Parkway.
"It's a very skin-of-my-teeth kind of thing," he says. "It's almost like a baby-sitting job. I work three days a week, maybe one other day, just to get by. I'm making a little bit of money and making art."
Fraulo records song ideas onto cassettes or ¼-inch tape. He dismantles the cassettes, cuts out the parts he likes, connects ends and re-inserts the loops back into the cassette housings. Using a four-track recording, he'll mix loops into full-length compositions. (Fraulo is familiar with the tape-loop pieces of William Basinski, who recorded the final death throes of crumbling loops as they literally fell apart.)
Florida=Death, the post-rock trio that Fraulo co-founded nearly a decade ago with singer/guitarist Dave Go, also uses tape loops, including at live shows. "That's the basis of songs sometimes," Fraulo says. "We'll sample straight tapes from different musicians, or we'll go thrift-store shopping for cassettes. We'll find answering machine tapes. We'll pull from wherever."
The tracks on "Shlubby Dreamer," Fraulo adds, were originally intended as demos for Florida=Death, but "it just became this personal thing. It was too personal to solely use for Florida at the moment. … For me, it was just more self-referential, just sampling from myself."
Certain tracks — "F*ck, wasted my youth," "Psychic Body," "Vast Difference," "Paradise of Failure" — offer something like a pulse and a meter. "Litmus Almond" mixes a two-note bass motive with recorder-like sounds and vocal grumblings. The mix itself becomes a presence; you feel three dimensions. There's depth and distance. Surfaces are grainy, but unbroken.
During the recording process, songs fall somewhere between planned-out compositions and spontaneous happenings.
"You try to set a base for what you want, but chance allows it to become its own thing after a while," Fraulo says. "The tape will do whatever it wants. It's not me doing it; it's the tape doing it."
The year that Fraulo spent working on "Shlubby Dreamer" was not a happy one.
"I was going through ups and downs," he says. "It was a struggle." He's relieved to be finished, although part of him keeps holding on.
"I'm excited and I'm just waiting to abandon it," Fraulo says. "Art's never really finished. You just have to let go of it."
Krem on Wool's "Shlubby Dreamer" can be streamed at kremonwool.bandcamp.com. Cassette tapes are also available ($8 plus shipping).
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press Play is a new column exploring the underground musicians of Connecticut. If you have new music to share, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.