VVOLK – Book of Air

Posted: 18 August 2016 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sub Rosa

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s not entirely clear, but it appears that Book of Air is a series of album releases with different collectives interpreting it differently, with VVOLK being the second collective after Fieldtone who released a Book of Air album in 2015. But perhaps given the nature of the project, identity is something which is of little to no consequence, names mere markers for marketing purposes. This is, after all, very much music where its origins and its makers are not only interchangeable and very much in the background but largely invisible – as is the music itself. This is a project about the listener, about perception, and about intangibles.

While I must confess that I’m unfamiliar with the concept of ‘bundled compositions’, I can readily grasp the concept of an album comprising four pieces performed by some eighteen improvisational players with musical roots in jazz and classical. Their collective objective is to investigate and interrogate improvisation in close relation to present time, asking the questions ‘what are the possibilities in playing music, when changes in the music pass unnoticed?’ and ‘how does our hearing and memory react to these slow changes?’ The album’s concept, then, is based around making music which is perceived less in the present time, ‘but rather occurs in our memory of the past’. As such, the album’s form pieces (spanning four sides of vinyl, and mastered as just two tracks of approximately twenty-five minutes apiece in duration on the CD) are built around slow notes and the compositions evolve at an evolutionary pace and are based around the gradual transition of the seasons, with the first track ‘Lente > Zomer’ giving way to ‘Herfst > Winter’.

Some time around the fifteen-minute mark during ‘Lente > Zomer’ I realise there are slow cymbal splashes washing over the gradual turning drone that forms the track’s foundation. Gradually, so gradually, the sound swells and grows in volume and resonance. Guitar notes flicker in the slow-turning sonic mass and imperceptibly, darkness turns to hint towards light. The two tracks segue together, with ‘Herfst > Winter’ beginning as a light, delicate undulation which draws out time itself as the notes interweave like starlight from distant galaxies making their way through space to be seen by human eyes millions of years later. The images of ice-capped mountains inside the album’s gatefold are appropriate: time move at a pace akin to that at which mountain ranges change. Such things are also relative: while the Himalayas continue to rise as the Indian tectonic plate continues to drift and buckle against the Eurasian, the Appalachians are slowly eroding. The analogy extends to the arrangements, which explore in painstaking detail the way sounds interact and reverberate against one another. And it all happens a truly glacial pace

‘Herfst > Winter’ tapers to a sparse dissonance around the sixteen-minute mark, simmering down to a hushed yet insistent throbbing tone, a frequency that nags at the nerves despite being soft-edged and gentle. The instrumentation is delicate and understated to the point that this is not an album one really listens to, but simply allows to wash over oneself and to form an almost subliminal listening experience.

Such sparse sound arrangements demand considerable restraint for so many musicians, and the collective result in many respects is one of subtraction. And yet, this is by no means a negative assessment. The music’s presence increases after the slow fade to silence.

VVOLK

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s