Posts Tagged ‘Abstract’

Focused Silence – FOCUSED0065 – 7th June 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Shrill. Treble. Not so much chiming as trilling, a sound between a rapid ringing bell and an alarm that drills into the cranium introduces ‘Colophon’, both the album and the title track on this release by ifitisn’t, a duo comprising Robinson & Kalnars – who both have musical pedigree. It’s the jangle of shattered glass and continues for what feels like an eternity, even though it’s only five minutes or so, before dissipating, dispersing into fragments amidst soft clouds of sound punctuated by near-subliminal bumps and scrapes.

According to the press release, ‘ifitisn’t is about the interruptive noise that exists between transmission and the intended reception of the message, the fragments of concrete experience that interrupt hegemony. it is the mapping of emotional and political territories. ifitisn’t is cartographer and rhetoricican’.

They probably realise that absolutely none of this ‘mapping of emotional and political territories’ actually translates through the work itself: the transmission conveys none of the intended reception. They’re probably more than aware that art’s capacity to ‘interrupt hegemony’ is limited at beast, especially in the current climate, especially when that art is obscure and inscrutable. The disparity between the medium and the message are immeasurable, and all that we have to process is ‘interruptive noise’. It’s quite conceivable that that’s the entire point. The fact they’ve gone ahead and done it anyway is what matters. Artistic statements count for less than pissing in the wind, but its through persistence and perseverance and a steadfast refusal to bow or quit that art will ultimately rise above its societal and cultural backdrop. And it’s art, in all of its myriad forms across all media, which makes life worth living.

I’m by no means saying that with Colophon, ifitisn’t are going to have any impact on my life praxis, or make any waves even within artistic circles. But that doesn’t matter.

Random sounds abound on the second piece, the eleven-minute ‘Denity’, which finds whistling digital feedback, dd snorts, disembodied voices and sounds of unidentifiable origin rifting in and out and intersecting with irregular chanking chimes and glooping ripples of analogue waves frothing impatiently. Nine minutes in, some gallic-sounding vibes enter the mix: it sounds at first like an accordion or concertina of some kind, but could equally be a melodica, but it’s soon washed away on a tide of fuzzy extraneous sound whatever it is.

And whatever it is, it’s worth hearing at least once.

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20th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

5 guitars follows very quickly the eponymous debut by n, which is Nathan Lyons (concept, guitars) and Neil Physick (software, field recording, processing, arrangements, production, artwork). Its predecessor was the result of musical free association inspired by ‘random’ words: 5 Guitars is less determined by creative process and emerges from more of a conceptual space, in that, according to the accompanying text, it ‘explores the idea of the instruments having their own spirits, benign or malignant, and of a guitar maturing over time then slowly completing its natural life, remembering the past in distant tones’.

This is a work which is very much geared towards the evocative, the listener finding their own place within abstract works and finding the meaning. Only, the listener doesn’t so much find the meaning as project it from their own experience. Does the universal lie in the personal? Most definitely, although 5 guitars isn’t an album that has any grounding in the personal, as much as a space between.

The spirits of the different guitars float into the air, the concept not so much lost in translation as dissolving into vague sonic nebulousness.

Warm, distant drones define the first piece, ‘Red Kay’, which hovers and hums in a mid-range swell which ebbs and flows in a calm, natural way. It bleeds into ‘Effector’, which almost disappears at times, dissolving into the most vaporous, background of ambient.

The narrative and concept isn’t overtly discernible from the music itself: the tracks don’t demark a clear linear progression from mellow tones to decay.

Picked notes are discernible on ‘Tiesco’, but they’re carried in trembling washes that approximate chords but are much vaguer, less defined…. And definition dissipates to nothing amidst the undulating drones which surge beneath the tempered ripples of notes that drift gently over the indistinct, hazy backdrop.

5 guitars is vague, undefined, indirect and unfocused from a listening perspective. And that’s all fine. The concept may not be clear, but has no bearing on the listening experience, and certainly has no impact on the reception side of the project, which is a pleasurable wash of soft tones that more than fulfils its purpose in terms of background.

https://nsound.bandcamp.com/album/5-guitars

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n - 5 guitars

Houndstooth -15th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

And We Are Passing Through Silently is pitched as ‘a collection of songs reworked by Abul Mogard between 2015 – 2018’, with the press blurb describing it as ‘the sublime first survey of reworks by [the] cult synthesist’. It’s also keen to point out that while there may only be five tracks on offer, here, the stature of the artists with whom Mogard has had involvement, noting ‘divine renderings’ of songs by Aïsha Devi, Penelope Trappes (The Golden Filter) and nick nicely (heralded by luminaries of the US underground Ariel Pink & John Maus), with the album culminating with Brian Eno’s collaboration with Irish avant-folk band Fovea Hex.

The 2LP, CD and digital editions also feature Abul’s brand new rework of Becoming Animal’s ‘The Sky Is Ever Falling’ which features vocals from Cinder (This Mortal Coil/Cindytalk) and Massimo Pupillo on bass (Zu/Thurston Moore/Stephen O’ Malley),

The album opens with Mogard’s reworking of Aïsha Devi’s ‘O.M.A.’ The minimalism of the original, as well as its woozy atmospherics are substituted for a mellow sonic wash, and while it’s eminently listenable, there is a certain sense of loss. The darker, more disturbing aspects are stripped out in favour of something less psychologically traumatic, but… I’m torn between the function of a remix bringing something different, and it taking out the essence, and this very much feels like a stylised dilution.

In contrast, his rendition of Penelope Trappes’ ‘Carry Me’ distils that essence and concentrates it, while also drawing out three mellow minutes into twelve and a half of droning organ abstraction, and Mogard’s reworking of nick nicely’s ‘London South’ follows the same trajectory, stretching out four minutes of soft, wistful psychedelia into a fifteen-minute drift, with long, sonorous drones expanding to cinematic proportions. The vocals are preserved, but spaced out, pushed to the back, partially submerged in reverb.

Everything reaches a perfect coalescence on ‘The Sky Is Ever Falling’. Which combines cinematic and operatic, minimalism and maximalism, as the sparse yet full, widescreen instrumentation comes to crate the backdrop for a soaring vocal performance that lifts and soars. The piece warps and wefts on a solar wind for almost a quarter of an hour, before the contrails bleed into an eternal scraping drone that creates a soporific calm that flows from foreground to background in an imperceptible transition.

On the one hand, there isn’t much to it, and Mogard’s method is simple – but it’s not only effective, but has ‘signature’ stamped all over it: his style is distinctive, to the point that his reworkings relegate the original artist and their work to a secondary placing while his own sound and style dominate. On occasion such an approach to remixing may appear ‘insensitive’ or even ‘selfish’, but Mogard seems to have established himself as a re-creator more than a remixer, with artists lining up to submit their work to his reworkings, he’s clearly got some leverage in the musical community, and fair play.

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Abul Mogard – And We Are Passing Through Silently

Kranky – 28th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Total immersion. This is what I get from Tim Hecker, both recorded and live. Responding critically to such a sensation is a major challenge.

My first attempt to review Konoyo redefined ‘failure’, as I sat, vacant and staring for the duration without typing a word. Yes, other things happened around me: emails continued to ping into my inbox, text messages, Facebook notifications, and so on. So much peripheral shit. But while pushing all of this noise to the peripheries, I struggled – nay, found it impossible – to get a firm grasp on the drifting soundscapes of Hecker’s latest album. My second stab proved no different. I can no longer blame the distractions: I’m reminded of ‘seeing’ Hecker’s performance at the Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds a few years ag. Purple smoke filled the room. It was so dense I couldn’t see my friend standing next to me: I felt as if I was in an isolation tank or a sleeping bag. With my surroundings completely removed, I found myself alone with the music, and in an almost trance-like state, swaying on my feet, in my own world. When things like this happen, I immediately assume I must have drunk more than I should or that I’m tired or something. But music at its most potent is like a drug, and Hecker has the capacity to transform the mental state and one’s relationship with one’s surroundings. And this is certainly true of Konoyo.

Inspired by conversations with a recently-deceased friend about ‘negative space’ and the banal density of contemporary music, Konoyo was largely recorded in a temple on the outskirts of Tokyo with a view to creating something that has room to breathe, rather more cerebral than physical, drawing back from sonic force to invite a different kind of engagement.

The first composition, ‘This Life’ wails eerily, resonant low notes hanging ponderously beneath escalating layers of discord that bow and shriek, before oriental motifs chime a certain note of freshness and innocence… but the notes are bent, the underlying washes of sound begin to twist, scrapes of extraneous noise swell to shrieks of metallic feedback.

As is Hecker’s signature, Konoyo, is very much about shifting textures and juxtaposed tonalities, but more than anything, the incidentals, the way layers fade in and out, and extraneous knocks and clatters suddenly appear from nowhere, and then disappear just as quickly. There are murky pulsations and hazy echoes that resonate through spatial densities that range from the subaquatic to the zero-gravity. Hecker conjures space outside of space, spaces which transcend both time and space to exist in another realm entirely, suspending time in the process. It’s ambience with edge.

An abrupt halt in the soothe drones just 20 seconds into ‘Keyed Out’ provides the album’s first real indication of just how difficult Hecker can – and will – make this. Jolting discord and jarring dissonance rupture the smooth, vaporous backdrop as thigs become overtly challenging around three minutes into this ten-minute journey through dissonance and sonic difficulty, across which a lacey cloak of accessibility slowly settles. The fifteen-minute finale, ‘Across to Anoyo’ is a slow-evolving epic which mutates from quiet mellowness into a warped, woozy discord, which twists Japanese motifs into funnelling electronic abstractions.

Piano tones which should offer tranquillity and comfort are rendered with an edge of attack and amidst a metallic edge of reverb, and nothing is quite as it seems or should be on Konoyo. It bends the brain and pushes the listener to explore unexpected spatial experiences, challenging connections to concrete orientation. The physical world disappears, and time evaporates. Konoyo delivers a path to transcendence.

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Hecker

SVS Records

Christopher Nosnibor

This one positively explodes in the opening moments: a swirling black hole of noise that eviscerates the senses and assaults the eardrums with such ferocious force and excruciating volume that it feels like the end. The actual, living end.

Yet again, I find myself scrabbling for the press release while questioning the benefit of being told about the origins, mechanics or methodology behind the work. And so I find myself research one-line, and discover the visuals which accompany the audio, and begin to develop a real appreciation of the multimedia vision of Lukas Rehm, operating as Lybes Dimem for the purpose of the Syncleft Chronem project, a work which celebrates error and explores the relationship between various input stimuli and cognitive frictions. It’s complex, but can be readily reduced to the experience itself.

The visuals intensify the experience, but the sonic experience alone is intense and brings a blistering sensory overload. Syncleft Chronem is loud, attacking. Uncomfortable. Placing the album isn’t easy but then, it’s not entirely necessary: as a barrage of electronic noise with beats, it’s a work which assaults the listener from the outset with its sonic intensity, a combination of dense walls of noise, abrasive textures and tones, and sheer volume. How do you feel? I’m feeling tense, but excited, exhilarated as this racket assails my ears. Rehm clearly isn’t making music to win friends or influence people. He’s generating sound to see what it sounds like and how it feels.

Sometimes, you simply don’t need words. On ‘Saas’, there are threats of dancefloor-friendly beats for an industrial night as booming 4/4 bass thumps start up – but they halt abruptly, and the whole thing fractures and fragments. Everything halts before it hits a stride, everything jolts and shudders. Everything is too loud to hear properly.

Syncleft Chronem is brutal, in the sense that it affords no respite, no pause for thought. And nor should there be an apology for this: as with the best art, its intensity sustains fever pitch, is uncomfortable, feeds tension to the point of perspiration and palpitation. It hurts.

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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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