Consouling Sounds – 28th April 2017

The follow-up to 2013’s You Stood Up for Victory, We Stood Up for Less sees the instrumental collective formed in 2011 expand in both number and vision. For his outing, founder and leader Richard Knox (The Rustle of the Stars, Shield Patterns, Glissando) is joined by a veritable host of collaborators: Aidan Baker (Nadja), Claire Brentnall (Shield Patterns), Angela Chan (Tomorrow We Sail. Lanterns on the Lake), Aaron Martin (F rom the Mouth of the Sun), David McLean (Gnod, Tombed Vision Records), Frédéric D. Oberland (The Rustle of the Stars, Oiseaux Tempête, FareWell Poetry, FOUDRE!), Owen Pegg (Hundred Year Old Man), Colin H. Van Eeckhout (Amenra, CHVE). And this is very much a collaborative work, which has resulted in an album which is rich in texture and tone, and marks a stylistic evolution from its predecessor. The album’s four extended, exploratory tracks are as expansive in sonic terms as they are in duration. While the drones and field recordings which characterise much of the output associated with Knox, The Gatherer incorporates myriad elements besides.

The first, ‘Colossus Survives’, gradually unfurls from a delicate, semi-nebulous sonic cloud drift into a wavering, teetering free jazz excursion, a saxophone being given a full tonal workout while in the distance, thick, deliberate beats crunch and rumble before everything drifts away to leave a ponderous piano.

‘Anodyne Nights for Somnabulent Strangers’ brings an altogether more ominous atmosphere, elongated drones scrape sonorously through a murky fog. But this, like the other pieces on The Gatherer, is a composition built on a continual shift. There are lighter notes, but they’re tinged with uncertainty and a sense of unease: indefinable, yet subliminally present. Slow and crawling as it is, the sound isn’t static for an instant, and the vicious argument which features around the twelve-minute mark is unsettling: the music is barely there, and not all of the words audible, and one feels as though one shouldn’t be overhearing it. But at the same time, you sit, ear cocked, to try to decipher what the shouting is about. It ends abruptly, and dolorous chimes ring out.

‘Jason Molina’s Blues’ approximates a deconstructed jazz over a slow, flickering rumble, and paves the way for the heavy, warping drone of ‘The Recapitulation’. Developing from a low, slow rumble and ominous echoes, saxophones and drones collide and intertwine to conjure a mystical sonic spot which exists between light and dark. A crashing beat echoes into infinity while Colin H. van Eeckhout delivers haunting, humming vocals: the words are barely audible but the effect borders on the spiritual as this voice hangs in a cavernous cave of reverb while strings drape themselves mournfully over the heavy air.

The Gatherer is by no means an easy or accessible album. But in its questing for new terrain, and its subtle sonic diversity, it’s an album which warrants time to embed.

 

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