Wreaths – The Sea to Which the Body is Drawn

Posted: 11 March 2019 in Albums
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Panurus Productions / Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings – 22nd March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It feels like I’ve been bombarded with spectral oceans lately, what with Teeth of the Sea’s Wraiths and now The Sea to Which the Body is Drawn by Wreaths, the project of Northumberland based artist Michael R. Donaldson, which utilises ‘four track experimentation, aged equipment, drones and field recordings to build haunting soundscapes’ lands in my inbox.

And such soundscapes are precisely what Wreaths deliver here. ‘Sea Lulled | A Spire Remains’ is what you might call a ‘classic’ example of contemporary ambient music, and opens the album in the most spectacularly understated style. It’s background, bit it’s also deep, layered, and multi-faceted.

Listening to the vast washes of sound in context of the album’s title, I become preoccupied with drowning. So often, I’ll describe ambient works as enveloping’ and ‘immersive’, but what is it like to be truly immersed?

‘Sorries’ hangs on a desolate, metallic drone that scrapes and swirls for some nine-and-a-half minutes. Ambient as it is, with soft piano notes ringing out into the air, the dominant textures and tones are harsh mid-range.

It’s a contrast to the titles, which allude to the soft, damp, organic, and also tell dark, depressing tales in Twitter-flash form: ‘Her Ornate Gown Marred by the Sea’; ‘Tides of Soil and Loam, Tides of Wreck and Ruins’; ‘Fell Foul of the Shallows’ – these all tell bleak and harrowing tales in their own rights, oblique hints of tales like tsunamis, tales like the flooding of Mardale Green beneath Haweswater Reservoir in Cumbia, and the creation of Ladybower Reservoir with Derwent village’s church spire rising above the water for some years after the village was submerged.

Water always wins, and even man’s harnessing of water is but finite, a power held on a knife edge.

The final track, the eighteen-minute ‘Timbers Sodden’ is a low, slow drone that hovers and drifts, conjuring the smell and feel of dank dampness, the sensation of slow decay. And herein lies the power of Wreaths: The Sea to Which the Body is Drawn is an album of atmosphere and evocation. It celebrates the transient, the fleeting, and conjures the ebb and flow, the mists and slow tidal pulls to create a listening experience that draws the mind as the sea draws the body.

AA

Wreaths - The Sea

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