Posts Tagged ‘Abstract’

Someone Good – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

David Toop enthuses over Haco as ‘weightless, not so much a voice from heaven but a voice that swirls in liquidity, water spirit…’ In this, he probably gets as close to capturing the essence of Haco’s music as its possible. It’s a challenge for any writer when presented with sonic abstraction: how to render the intangible tangible, and at the same time convey the experience of sound in words?

The music on Qoosui is not easy – and in fact almost impossible – to pin down. An analogy to catching a cloud is close, but not right: the seven pieces exist in a state somewhere between liquid and vapour, and flow in multiple directions seemingly simultaneously. Rippling synths slowly bubble as wash aquatically on ‘Kusul’, and paves the way for a sequence of amorphous, drifting compositions which drift and tether. Crystalline shards cut through cloud-like washes on ‘White Letter from Heaven’, and Haco’s voice is seemingly not of the human body, transcendental, and not of this world.

This is, in many respects, the source and heart of Qoosui: inspired by spirit voices, Haco becomes one. The medium is the message on every level.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/224449651

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Macaque Records – 21st August 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Gilman Mom is the musical vehicle for Dominic Francisco (which has a star quality of its own). As Dominic explains, Manifest Destiny ‘plays heavily with texture and field recordings melding with emotional chords and words in attempt to convey my mental transformation from a vulnerable state to a confident one’.

The text which accompanies the release is almost uncomfortably direct, and it seems appropriate to quote in full:

I want it to feel like a troubled night walk of self-reflection that blossoms into realization.

This album isn’t for you so much as it is for me. I needed a way to document my circular thought process. Around and around until I stumbled upon developments. It’s not for everybody but it’s what I felt in my head when I thought about you for so long after that night. Nature surrounded me almost perfectly as this unfolded; you left me in the rain and by the time that storm ended I had found myself again. With this piece I want to remember who I was and how I got here. However fragile we were and unfit for each other, I gained so much insight into who I am from what was us. With your inadvertent help I’ve entered a state of definity. This is my journey to that place.

It’s clear from this that Manifest Destiny originates from an intensely personal place and one feels almost voyeuristic by simply being in its presence, without even listening to it. Should you listen to it? It sounds more like a work of therapy following a sequence of breakdown and recovery. Is it even intended for the ears of the casual listener?

In contrast to the write-up, the music the album features is uncomfortably indirect. Rumbling piano, distant discord that rolls like thunder way, way off, an unsettlingly sparse piano and muttered vocal snippets, the words inaudible, congeal into a dense mass of sound which offers little by way of shape, form, or tangibility.

At times barely there, eddying arabesques of synth contrails surround distorted, hushed vocal snippets, the actual words unintelligible. Gloopy tremors shiver amidst subaquatic hums and bubbling drones. Clicks, clatters and muffled extranea ebb and flow in the sonic swamp.

Any sense of linear progression, narrative flow, or emotional shift over the sequence of the album’s eleven tracks is difficult to determine: it feels more like a murky sonic miasma, slowly pulsating through a fog of introspection, apart from the glimmers of light briefly afforded by ‘Fool’s Gold’ at the mid-point. This is in no way a criticism: as an experience in ephemera, a vague allusion to sequence of events and emotions largely unknowable, the context matters less than the recordings themselves. And these are deeply atmospheric, sparse yet subtly immersive compositions, which exist in a realm of detachment, a world between worlds.

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Gilman Mom - Manifest Destiny

SOFA – SOFA 556 – 7th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Within a few weeks of moving into my current home, there was an immense storm, which led to my discovery that it wasn’t water-tight, on account of a) having no cover over the letter box b) some defective guttering c) a gap between the roof tiles and the brick work. Consequently, this – admittedly unusually heavy – downpour resulted in there being a pool of water, an inch or so deep and over two feet in circumference just inside my front door. Ok, it was more of a puddle than an actual pond, but the anecdote serves to illustrate that the surrealist image conjured by the title of Philippe Lauzier’s second album is neither strange nor funny when the abstract notion becomes an actual lived experience.

The album’s four tracks are built around multiple tracks of bass clarinet, but there is nothing on A pond in my living room which could be readily identified by ear alone as being woodwind, and the longform compositions are explorations of sound rather than structure, with not a trace of jazz or orchestral influence to be heard.

‘Bleu Pénombre’ opens the album in a long, swirling churn of feedback. Gradually, layers of sound build, granular textures roughen the surface of the undulating, elongated multitonal humming. It’s a richly atmospheric composition, which suggests a preoccupation with the relationships between sounds as much as with the sounds themselves. Higher pitches and nagging oscillations emerge as ‘Bleu Pénombre’ bleeds into the uneasy ‘Water Sprinkling’. The notes quiver and ripple, like a mirage through a heat-haze. Sharp blasts of white noise fizz against the creeping whines which populate the sparse, eerie ‘On the Window Side’. The result is ominous, unsettling, with the unpredictably-placed shards of static adding moments of shock to the tension which Lauzier sustains over the full duration of the ten-minute piece, which culminates in a dark, rhythmic pulsation.

None of the sound contained on the album carries connotations of water, or even any overt reference to the surreal juxtaposition the title suggests, but this only accentuates the air of abstraction which hangs over the album as a whole. The final track, ‘Napping in a Neglected Garden’ yawns and grates, a metallic creak like a rusty gate opening and closing replayed in half-time dominates the haunting eleven-and-a-half-minute work. Gradually, the slow, natural rhythm becomes subject to disruption and halting adjustments bring further disruption and twist the listener’s sensory adjustment.

A pond in my living room is more effective and affecting by virtue of its comparatively subtle approach. A pond in my living room is not a loud album, and does not rely on harsh textures and tones to achieve its discomforting impact.

Philippe Lauzier - Pond

Hidden Seer – HDSR001 – 25th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Aside from being a member of Leeds-based good-time festival-favourite indie band and all-round musical entertainers Hope and Social for some six years, Simon Goff’s list of collaborators is impressive, featuring among their number Aidan Baker and Pere Simonelli of Enablers. He’s an artist who can seemingly turn his hand, adeptly, to myriad musical forms. And on HUE – an album which couldn’t be further from the jaunty fun of H&S – he explores forms in the vaguest, most mutable, shifting, fleeting sense. Glitchy beats flicker through rippling strings. Tempos and counter-tempos criss-cross subtly, creating the impression of different currents running together but at different depths. It all happens beneath the surface.

Each of the album’s six colour-coded tracks is sculpted meticulously from layers of sound, the arrangements marrying electronic and conventional acoustic instruments to compelling effect. Percussion of a palpating heartbeat, glitchy crackles and mournful strings drift over low-end scrapes and rumbles. Eventually, the dark atmosphere gives way to light, blossoming brightness beams like the sun’s rays breaking through cloud. Yet there are shadowy currents which still flow beneath. After a rather grand opening, there’s a retreat into more minimal, drone-orientated sonic territories. Soft contrails are calligraphed in subtle, supple string arrangements. The space between the beats and notes is integral to the compositions: the echo, the decay. The overlap. A single note, plucked with varying weight.

Elsewhere, as on ‘Blue’, Goff creates a rarefied atmosphere through the exploration of the most minimal arrangements. Elongated, tapering drones which shift almost imperceptibly, with broad sweeps of sound like steely grey clouds turning, moving.

Picked notes and irregular rhythms combine to create somewhat disorientating sonic spaces; the shimmering oscillations of tr6 are trance-inducing hypnotic, but the erratically-cut and irregularly lopped sample snippets rupture the gentle surface with dislocation. The tracks drift into one another, creating a natural-feeling flow that, while not narrative, does possess a certain subtle linearity.

 

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ROOM40 – RM475

Christopher Nosnibor

If the album’s cumbersome title sounds like a collection of abstractions thrown together by the same random title generator that The Fall use, then the enormously protracted song titles take the form of semi-abstract narratives which evoke mysterious, shadowy scenes.

Many of the tracks are shorter than their titles, and while the soundworks consist largely of rumbles, scrapes, thuds and electrostatic crackles which are essentially abstract, they do develop some kind of implicit meaning when played in context of the titles. The extent to which this is intentional is unclear: Toop explains the album’s development as being born out of ‘three periods of solitude’ and a conversation with composer and ROOM40 label owner Lawrence English which spurred him to reassess his perspective on releasing music in the 21st century.

Gathering sounds drawn from myriad and disparate sources which lay as ‘spores or maybe dormant clusters of digital files’, Toop has created a work which captures and conveys a sense of the ephemerality of all things. Sights, sounds, experiences, spaces, are each experienced by an individual in but a momentary way. Collectively, all the fragments of experience, however minor and seemingly insignificant, form the life lived; in short, life is one vast intertext, and it’s from this array of ‘things’ Entities Inertias Faint Beings is formed. And so one is pushed to contemplate not simply the sounds or words themselves, but their relationships to those in which they coexist, and to consider their contexts.

‘Dry keys echo in the dark and humid early hours’ is in fact a phrase lifted from Clarice Lispector’s Aqua Viva, and Toop references various other texts (Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects and Stephen Mansfield’s book on Japanese stone gardens). Toop also makes mention of a ‘hypnagogic image of ‘a transparent swimming pool suspended over the mouth of a volcano.’

As such, Entities represents a gathering of sources, a cut-up collage of sorts, gathering sound, image, memory, thoughts and ideas together in a melange of drones, thuds, whistles, hums and a miscellany of abstract sounds. There are moments of melody and rhythm, some of which are charming and delicate, but thy fade out and vanish as quickly as they emerge. When a scratchy picked guitar and conventional instrumentation emerges on ‘Compelled to approach’, it sounds almost alien in context. The mournful strings on ‘Ancestral beings, sightless by their own dust’ are draped over soft chimes and the sampled speech on ‘Human skin and stone steps’, overlaid with a solitary woodwind and low gong, takes on a hypnotic tone.

The album ultimately tapers to silence, leaving the listener to ponder and reflect.

 

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