Ezekiel Honig – A Passage of Concrete

Posted: 15 July 2017 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Anticipate Recordings – 17th March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The cover art gives little to nothing away, but at the same time, it’s perhaps a remarkably accurate representation of the blurring, blending overlays of contrasting tones and textures which define the ephemeral pieces which form the abstract picture which is A Passage of Concrete.

The album pitch details how A Passage of Concrete ‘ebbs and flows across an electroacoustic narrative of fragmented memory tethered to the present moment, unravelling movement, location, distance in a story that cares about place as both texture and emotional notation. Honig’s sense of place and the way he utilises it is disparate and varied, from field recordings made in busy streets, to parks and empty apartments, via high-ceilinged spaces. One might say that  Honig is preoccupied with both sonic and psychological reverberations and resonance, and that A Passage of Concrete represents the coalescence of these things.

Scratchy and distant shuffling scrapes, flickering, arrhythmic beats provide the backdrop to a sparse delicate acoustic strum on ‘Apartment Workshop’. Steady, pulsing beats pin down the extraneous sonic ripples and segments of ambient audio captured in bustling crowds, while ‘Forest of Refractions’ wraps droning organ undulations around a glitchy beat. The mellow keys which radiate dappled light on the two ‘Fugue State’ pieces are pleasant but innocuous, and while ‘dark’ notes resonate across bouncing beats over the album’s duration, it’s not easy to get a handle on. Yet for all that, it’s not an album which possesses the deep draw of emotional engagement.

While the album’s fourteen tracks, many of which are fragmentary, and a number of which are but sketches of around a minute in duration, are exercises in the vague and the transitional, the percussion, fluid as it is, provides a certain solidity to the compositions in structural terms. The effect is to give A Passage of Concrete a greater sense of tangibility than an album which is purely abstract and ambient. As such, its capacity to connect with and conjure from the listener’s memory is reduced. It lacks that essential, if evasive and indefinable quality of being haunting and evocative. Ezekiel Honig may be a master at conveying his own mental geography, but A Passage of Concrete lacks the abstraction required to render it universal. So where do you go?

On ‘A Slow Expansion,’ the classic evocation of nostalgia, the crackle of a worn vinyl groove fleetingly emerges. I can’t be drawn. The crackle track, the ultimate cliché of nostalgia, has become Vienna: it means nothing to me, and stands as nothing more than a signifier of ersatz nostalgia. It no longer holds any emotional resonance.

A Passage of Concrete is not a bad album by any means. In fact, it’s an extremely interesting album, but one that’s difficult to appreciate on anything but an artistic or musical level. Sonically, there’s no questioning the accomplishment of the material on display. But to measure the extent to which Honig succeeds in his goal is entirely subjective: what will resonate with one individual won’t touch another. But at its best, music transcends everything: sound transcends language and sound attains absolute universality. A Passage of Concrete fails to achieve this ultimate goal of connecting the listener’s psyche through abstraction, because it feels somehow prescriptive. Honig’s structures steer the listener in the direction of his headspace rather than providing a conduit for the listener to interact fully by exploring their own. The end result, then, is a pleasurable listening experience, but one which lacks the capacity for full immersion and to truly move the listener.

Ezekiel Honig - A Passage of Concrete

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