Posts Tagged ‘Ambient’

Rocket Recordings – 10th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

International Treasure is the second album from the ‘collaborative collision’ of Steve Davis, Kavus Torabi, and Mike York. And, of course, much has – and will – be made of the Steve Davis factor: he may have kept his musical interests largely under wraps during the lengthy heyday of his snooker career, but the fact is that he’s long been a fan and supporter of ‘interesting; music, and this is a musical unit that stands on the strength of its work – and its work is (utopia) strong.

As the accompanying notes explain about the origins of International Treasure, ‘All three musicians here found themselves operating outside of their comfort zones – Torabi’s purchase of a guzheng (a Chinese plucked zither) led to Shepherdess’s lambent allure and York’s spectacular and evolving array of pipes and wind instruments contributed just as much as his ruthless editing. Davis meanwhile, whose speciality lies in rich tapestries of modular electronics, sums up their relationship in characteristically self-effacing fashion: “I see myself as a strong midfielder, or a centre back. Kavus and Mike are like the Lionel Messi or Ronaldo of the equation, and I’m setting situations up for them”.

Davis’ application of an extended football analogy is amusing in context, and one suspects it’s an intentional slice of drollery. The music itself is not amusing – as in, there are no chuckles to be found here – but instead is intensely focused, with magnificent results. There’s a tangible sense of an intuition flowing between the three of them on this album as the sounds ebb and flow and weave and quaver, the elongated drones and meandering organs melting together like a stream of butter.

There are some odd samples – probably animal, rather than vegetable or mineral – flow together into a soft mass, with no hard boundaries, no distinct edges… ‘Shepherdess’ is spacious, meditative, but shifts over time to emerge as a more pulse-based modular synth work, and ‘Disaster 2’ brings all of the various elements together perfectly, as well as bringing together ambient, post-rock, and folk. It’s a beautiful and uplifting experience, and one which acknowledges the pains, trials, and tribulations of life, how it may not be possible to function all day every day.

There’s something soothing, even soporific, about the slow, mellifluous tones that drift together smoothly, seemingly effortlessly, to coalesce into some form, however cloud-like and abstract, to create International Treasure. Even when deep, resonant notes hang like the slow decay of a chimed gong, as on the title track, the darkness is always tempered, by light.

It’s not ambient and it’s not Krautrock – but International Treasure finds the three musicians drawing on elements of both to conjure something magical, something mystical. The final track, ‘Castalia’ is a calypso party party, and if it at first feels somewhat at odds with the rest of the album, it’s worth bearing in mind that the album exists at all because the players are keen to explore different terrains and territories. And explore they do: International Treasure mines many seams, and excavates a wealth of listening pleasure.

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3rd June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

My partner in power electronics, the man behind the white noise aspect of the ‘white noised and shouting’ equation that is …(something) ruined, Paul Thingumy (he has more pseudonyms and variant monikers than the devil himself, or even JG Thirlwell), has gone and self-released another EP. Well, less of an EP than an LP: it may only contain four tracks, but with a duration of almost an hour, it’s a very long play.

Residing in Mirfield, Kirklees, West Yorkshire – or, objectively, the arse-end of nowhere, where trains are infrequent and tend not to visit after 9pm – is probably very like any other Little Britain backwater with a Tory MP. And it’s so often from our immediate environs we draw our inspiration, as the album’s title indicates. For reasons I can’t fathom, the title reminds me of Peter York’s strange book Dictators’ Homes and some TV show I can’t quite recall – probably because I never watched it – about celebrity pads. Or perhaps I’m confusing it with Pimp My Ride or some other wank. Because it all blurs, and fast. Mirfield Pads is blurry, but in a different way: everything melts together to create an ambient wash.

In something of a departure from much of Paul’s previous work – and there’s a lot of it – Mirfield Pads is surprisingly mellow, melodic, accessible. There’s a hypnotic Krautrock vibe about the shuffling oscillations, with sampled vocal snippets buried low in the mix in places. It’s an overtly synth work with a vintage leaning that’s strongly rooted in the late 70s and early 80s. If there’s a debt to Kraftwerk here with elements of Mike Oldfield and Harold Faltermeyer, then equally, Mirfield Pads is Paul’s nod to Tangerine Dream, perhaps in part spurred by the recent passing of Klaus Schulze. You wouldn’t necessarily call it a tribute, but an inspiration, almost certainly.

Tapering tones interweave and turn, glistening, fractal, kaleidoscopic, like beams of light dancing on an illuminated surface, dancing lightly across a millpond or flickering on a wall. Not a lot happens, and it doesn’t need to: the sounds turn slowly on an axis that exists in a space of its own.

‘Crystal Airfield’ – a title that evokes the spirit of JG Ballard – hits the numerical sweet spot of 23:23, and with additional guitar work courtesy of Neil Campbell, longtime collaborator and one half of another project, Early Hominids, it’s a richly atmospheric piece that rounds off the experience nicely in a wash of elongated droning feedback paired with bubbling analogue sounds.

It’s the attention to detail, to the vibe and sensation that really makes Mirfield Pads intriguing. It feels more like a document from a past time more than a nostalgia piece, and this is a good thing, because nostalgia has become dreary and weary very quickly indeed – probably because the smell of cash is so unappealing.

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Constellation – 20th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The first collaborative full-length album by Automatisme (the Canadian musician and conceptual artist William Jourdain) and Swiss field recordist, ambient musician, visual artist and writer/academic Stefan Paulus, Gap/Void is nothing if not a deep, immersive sonic experience.

While the origins of many albums are largely unremarkable and barely worthy of reading, let alone comment, Gap/Void is a strong exception, and for that reason, it feels appropriate to quote at length:

Paulus approached Jourdain with a proposal based on his field recordings made during numerous mountain expeditions in the Swiss Alps, the Caucasus, and north of the Arctic Circle—documenting stormy weather, high alpine winds, avalanches, and sounds emanating from glaciers and from the insides of crevices and caves. Paulus created ambient noisescapes from these recordings by splicing and folding them into hundreds of layers of sound: an analog to the geological strata of their geographic sources. The resulting audio mixes, compounding a multiplicity of spatio-temporal excursions, were then further encased in drones using the natural tone series (the traditional zäuerli or wordless yodels of northeastern Switzerland), the monotonic standing drone of Lamonte Young’s Dream Syndicate, and the mass chords of early 1970s Kosmische Musik as points of reference. Paulus sent these extended ambient/noise pieces to Jourdain as source material for the latter’s bespoke Automatisme techniques, where variable tempo and glitch systems forge more overt minimal techno/IDM works.

‘Hey, how about an Arctic trek?’ doesn’t really sound like a pitch for a musical collaboration, and pitched to a TV producer, it would probably have been a series with its own self-made soundtrack – although for TV they’d have probably wanted some celebrities slogging across the barren wastes lugging audio gear or something stupid.

The first of the album’s ten tracks is the twelve-minute ‘Säntis’, where an insistent and overtly synthesised loop thrums against a slow ambient swirl before an insistent uptempo kick drum beat thumps in and for a spell things go techno… before becoming derailed. The tempos are all over, the ebbs and flows run in different times and tempos and before long it becomes quite overwhelming, disorientating as the layers build… and then everything falls away and you’re left with the rumbling sound of the wind scouring the bleak, barren ground. It sounds harsh and inhospitable, it sounds dark and unsettling, and yet it feels less tense and is somehow less agitating than the preceding pulse-quickening sensory overload.

Things do settle a little as the album progresses, and by the arrival of the third track, ‘Uble Schlucht’, we’re into something of a more straightforward Krautrock style, dominated by bubbling synths and motorik grooves. But, at the same time, it’s a soundscape of shifting terrain, of snowdrifts and undulations, crags and cervices.

There’s a restlessness about Gap/Void that means it’s impossible to settle, that keeps you on edge in a way. The compositions – particularly the way the percussion is eternally evolving, in a continual flux, more a series of palpitations and panic attacks than a pulsating heartbeat – are tense, ever-moving, with a flicker-filled urgency that offers little respite.

‘Blau Schnee’ goes all out on the deep bass and low-end murkiness, the beats and bass melting into one another, while ‘Stoos’ goes ultra-sparse and is so minimal it borders on the microtonal, before an off-tempo beat bounds in and trips the wire.

The pieces on the second half of the album are rather shorter, with none over the six-minute mark, but the sound and sensation remain similar, with crackling electronics dominating and beats that poke at the innards – sometimes subtly, others less so. But it never really lets up, and while very little of Gap/Void gives even the vaguest hint of its source and origins, it does convey a certain sense off desolation, of isolation. Soon, we will all live in desert, and it will sound like this.

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Fabrique Records – 29th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

On her latest project, Jana Irmert shrinks the focus of her thoughts and her music on the microcosmic – although that certainly doesn’t extend to the microtonal. What Happens At Night is an intensely-focused work that places the lens onto textures and tones, and an examination of the relationship between the physical and the cerebral. You may call it a celebration of overthinking, but ‘philosophical’ feels a more appropriate term for her musical meditation on life and death – specifically death and beyond, the part of the life journey no-one has ever reported on and will, one assumes, be forever unknown and unknowable.

The liner notes set out the granular nature of the album’s composition: ‘Like layers of sediment, sounds are being pushed up from underneath, floating away or sinking back to the bottom. At the core of the album lies a question: What will be left of us? While Earth melts, we go on. But eventually, there will be a point in the future where all that will be left of humanity is a thin layer of rock. While this may seem like a deeply gloomy prospect, it also carries a great deal of comfort: the reminder that we are only a small particle in a vast system so big that we can never fully grasp’.

This is the limitation we all live with: the inability to comprehend life without us, what it would be like to not exist. Much of it’s ego, but perhaps it’s also a preprogramed limitation. Everything is dust, and once we pass, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we become desert, and nothing changes: the world goes on… and on. And that’s a disheartening prospect; for the majority, our legacy won’t extend beyond our lifetimes, and the world at large is unaware of our existence while we’re here, let alone likely to experience any ripples in our wake. But even the world will be finite, ultimately. It will be swallowed by the sun in supernova. But none of us will be here to report on it by then.

What Happens At Night is dark and stark, and with just four tracks and a running time of less than half an hour, it’s perhaps technically only an EP, but feels like an album in every respect.

There’s a dolorous chime of a bell and a shrieking anguish of tortured spirits trailing like comets fading through the sky at the start of the album’s first piece, ‘Particles’, and everything simply floats and drifts. It’s ambient in the conventional sense: it’s background, you don’t really pay close attention while it’s playing, but it does subtly slant the mood.

‘Ashes’ is but a drifting fragment between the megalithic pieces on either side: it’s barely three minutes in duration. If ‘Dust is the Rust of Time’ is sparse it’s also dense, and a sedated heartbeat pulses uncomfortably throughout, amidst shuddering, gasping breaths of panic. You feel the anxiety at the passing of time; what have you achieved, and what will be your legacy? How will you be remembered in a world without you? It’s a tense, dense, gloomy sound, and you come to realise you are nothing, you’re simply here to go, and one day you will be but dust. Deal with it. And yet… It’s not a question of there being something more beyond, as such. And yet… ‘Stratum’ closes, and it’s the splash of waves and the quiet roar of a buffeting wind and the slow sound of the dust settling as incrementally, life returns to earth in slow, sedimentary layers, and each layer fossilises a period in time for all eternity. You may be dust, you may be forgotten, but in some form, are eternal in the earth.

Irmert articulates nothing specifically or directly here, but instead, What Happens At Night provides a sonic backdrop which invites contemplation.

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Crónica – 26th April 20222

Christopher Nosnibor

Having seen various videos of Gintas K’s improvisations, involving a keyboard and a dusty old Lenovo ThinkPad running some custom software, it’s apparent that his approach to composition is nothing if not unusual, and it’s matched by the results.

His Crónica debut, Lengvai / 60 x one minute audio colours of 2kHz sound was sixteen years ago, and his return to the label is a very different offering, although as has been a common factor throughout his career, Lėti – Lithuanian for slow – consists of comparatively short pieces – and here, the majority are four minutes long or less. Less is more, and what’s more, Gintas K invariably manages to pack more into a couple of minutes than many artists do in half an hour. Here, we have a set of eleven short pieces ‘created from recording and improvising in studio followed by extensive mixing and editing using software.’ There’s no more detail than that: some artists accompany their releases with essays explaining the creative process and the algorithms of the software and so on, but Gintas K simply leaves the music for the listener to engage with and to ponder.

Where Lėti is something of a departure is in the emphasis on the editing and mixing of the material and the fact that, as the title suggests, the arrangements are a little more sedate. The signature crackles and pops, chines and static are all present and correct, but there’s a sense of deliberation as we’re led through ethereal planes of delicate chimes and tinkling tones that resonate and hang in the air, drifting in open expanses, with time and space to reverberate and slowly decay. With this more measured feel, melodies become more apparent, with simple motifs, repeated, giving ‘Hallucination’ a sense of structure and, I suppose you might actually say ‘tune’.

It isn’t that Gintas’ works lack tunefulness as such, but that any tune is surrounded by froth and extranea, and so much is going on it’s often hard to miss. Listening to Lėti is a fairly calm, even soothing experience, at least for the most part, conjuring a mood of reflection, of contemplation. The album’s longest piece, the seven-minute ‘Various’ brings a dense wave of sound that surges and swells slowly like a turning tide. There’s almost a stately grandeur to it, but then, there’s a rattling kind of a buzz that’s something of a distraction, and a glitch that nags away and seems to accelerate. These little headfucks are quintessential Gintas K, and Lėti isn’t all soft and sweet: ‘Savage’ brings thick, fuzzing distortion and discomfort.

The flurries of sound, the babble of bubbling bleeps and bloops that are his standard fare are slowed to sparse, irregular drips in a cave on ‘Variation’, and the application of reverb is impressively nuanced, to the point that the reverbs almost become music in their own right. ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘Ambient’ are appropriately titled, while ‘Nice Pomp’ would comfortably serve as a soundtrack to a slow-motion film of a moon landing or somesuch, and again none of the pieces are without depth or detail, as the layers and slivers of sound that intersect create so much more than mere surface.

Lėti is a genuinely pleasant and pleasurable listening experience, but is most certainly isn’t straightforward or simple in what it delivers. There are many sonic nuggets to unearth, and so many tones and textures along the way, that what is, superficially ‘less’ is, in actual fact, a whole lot more.

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17th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s something quite surreal about the imagery of ‘eye gymnastics’: it’s highly visual, yet at the same time, beyond physicality, and as such, it possesses a cartoon-like quality. This surrealism extends to the cover art, too: what exactly are we looking at here? It’s the debut album from a Lithuanian duo consisting of Viktorija Damerell and Gailė Griciūtė, who first came together in 2018.

And so it is that these clues are also representative of the music: the words are strange, fragmented, abstract – but also not, with improbable and incongruous images, and the album’s first piece, ‘Eye Gymnastics’ could be something of a signature tune for the pair. It’s sparse, the beats subtle, distant, subdued, yet insistent as they pulse through eddying swirls of semi-ambient synth drifts, through which a spaced-out, vocal dreamily intonates lyrical abstractions. If surrealism has a certain preoccupation with dreams and the subconscious, then on Nothing Supernatural, Eye Gymnastics plunder that inner realm for inspiration and render it in such a way as to remain to the vagueness, the indistinct focus of the fugue state, the disconnects and strangeness of dreams, and recreates the way those sensations and images echo, hauntingly, in the waking hours which follow those most vivid of nocturnal experiences.

The title feels vaguely ironic in the context of the disconcerting, dislocated vocal treatments of the ominous and eerie ‘Tree Tops’, where a glitchy, industrial beat clatters in thick and leaden. Then again, it’s dark pulsations feel as much the product of a troubled mind as of anything supernatural.

While there are some significant leanings towards ambience and hypnotic drifts imbued with an ‘otherly’ feel, elsewhere, snarling, growling electronics dominate a number of the tracks, with ‘Sadness and Joy’ being really quite heavy, with a gloopy bass that whips and whirs and fizzes. ‘You Destoy Me’ epitomises this industrial darkness: the murky drumming pumps away with the palpating tension of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘March of the Pigs’, while the multi-layered vocals whisper and echo dark thoughts, and the relentless pulse of ‘Let it In’ is harder and harsher still, the bass drum a booming throb, the snare – such as it is – a smash of distortion. You don’t want to let it in: no, you want to shut it out, make it go away. It’s not pleasant, it’s uncomfortable, claustrophobic, suffocating. Sparse and spooky, ‘Bitter Night’ bridges the territory between Young Marble Giants and Throbbing Gristle.

It’s unsettling, a creeping burrowing into the brain, as if overhearing someone’s internal monologue. This is not what you’d really call a ‘relatable’ experience, at least for the majority. It’s not full-on horror, but it is chilling, challenging, eerie, unsettling. But it’s also compelling, hypnotic, and a quite remarkable debut.

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Kohlhaas Records – 22nd April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Simon Whetham’s notes which accompany (II)ntolerance – the sequel to his 2017 collection, InTolerance – are informative, albeit perhaps more so when reading between the lines: ‘InTolerance consisted of a selection of combined scenes and activities in various global locations. Through the process of constructing the piece, it became clear that it was as much about my ability and fortune to be able to travel and cross borders with relative ease as it was about the situations I was able to document. (II)nTolerance is a sequel and a response to InTolerance. It is a personal reaction to the global pandemic and its wide-reaching effects through suffering, fear, misinformation as much as confinement and curfews. It is a personal response to the (somewhat incorrectly named) United Kingdom leaving the European Union and all the resulting events that are continually unravelling.’ He continues: ‘Travel has been limited when not impossible. Cultural exchange is only possible through mobile, online, remote communication. Tactile contact is feared. Families and friends have been divided physically, mentally, politically.’

The pandemic but a block on everyone’s lives, but everyone was affected differently, and while I struggle to find sympathy for those bemoaning their inability to take their 204 kids on their half-term skiing holidays and the like, touring artists who depends on mobility for their livelihood, it’s a different matter, especially as that transit and a shifting geography is integral to the creative process. Reading Whetham’s notes, it’s clear that his obstacles have not been purely pandemic-related: The ‘United’ Kingdom has degenerated into a cesspit of division where not only ‘tactile contact’ is feared, but so is anything from ‘outside’. Never has this felt like a smaller, more isolated, island, and not just geographically.

Tolerance is something many of us – mostly those of us who wanted to remain – can now only dream of, as we hide our faces behind our hands as we peep at Twitter and Facebook, where it’s bordering on a virtual civil war.

Whetham describes (II)ntolerance as a personal response to all of this, and ultimately, that’s the only real response any artist can make. The idea that we’re all in the same boat has been proven untrue, for while we all endured the pandemic, everyone experienced it so very differently: home schooling while working from home was, for example, in no way comparable to living alone or in a shared house while on furlough. Similarly, the effect of Brexit for a container driver, versus that of, say, a hedge fund manager is simply not comparable. But this in itself is an issue: increasingly, it seems people have become unable to relate to experiences and situations which differ from their own.

As an artist, of course, one can really only represent oneself, and hope that through the personal there is an element of universal therein, and on this level, (II)ntolerance succeeds, containing as it does fourteen abstract compositions that state nothing explicitly, and yet convey so much implicitly.

There are a number of pieces that form sequences, namely the ‘Angry Earth’ pieces and the three ‘Kinetic Readymade’ pieces, which give the album a sense of cohesion and thematic unity (while making a small nod to avant-garde greats like Marcel Duchamp). And (II)ntolerance is an album of movement, of turbulence: the first piece, ‘Angry Earth Seething 1’ sounds like a harsh deluge of rain, and the lashing precipitation sets the tone for a stormy sonic journey, riven with growls and gulps and crashes of static and ominous drones and clicks and stammers.

(II)ntolerance marks a shift from field recordings and a focus on geography to shift the focus inward in a response to a shrinking environment, and the result is claustrophobic and uncomfortable. ‘Moving Sentry 2 – Angry Earth Seething 3’ is a gurgling mess of abrasion, while ‘Reception – Windpipes’ whips and gurgles in a fog of phase. Oftentimes, such as on ‘Angry Earth Seething 4’, Whetham conjures a dark, gravel-shunting grind of uncomfortable noise, while ‘Kinetic Readymade (Turbine)’ embraces all shades of difficult, dominated by churning, scraping noise – and as a whole, (II)ntolerance is not an ‘easy’ album. It’s noisy, with serrated edges and low-end growlings that unsettle the intestines. A difficult album for difficult times.

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Kranky – 15th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Well, this is nice. No, it’s not sarcasm or some kind of snide semi-criticism wrapped in a vague compliment. Jacob Long’s third Earthen Sea outing for Kranky, Ghost Poems, was composed and created in New York during the first wave of lockdowns, and conjures a sense of calm , of tranquillity, and captures a sense of the hush that descended over life during this time. For many, there as an underlying rush of panic, of anxiety, as we struggled to comprehend what the hell was going on. The rolling news was little short of terrifying, and from my own vantage over the pond, New York looked like a dystopian movie. People weren’t only dying, but there were queues around the block just to get people into hospitals.

And yes, while all of this madness was going on, all other aspects of life were on hold. This was true of every town and city around the globe, but New York, the city that doesn’t sleep, was held still by a giant pause button. The very idea of New York without bumper-to-bumper traffic, packed sidewalks and parks rammed with joggers and dog walkers seems inconceivable. And yet, it happened.

Ghost Poems soundtracks empty streets, slow air currents and a general absence of everything – people, activity, life. As the title suggests, this is a collection of works which are haunted by the echoes of life, of activity, or movement, and listening it reminds me of my ventures outside in those early days and weeks of lockdown here in (old) York, England, a city usually populous withy workers and tourists, reduced to a ghost town. Social distancing was no issue on leaving the house: you could walk for half an hour is see maybe three other people. It was eerie. It was weird. It felt apocalyptic, like I was one of the last people on earth.

Slow, vaporous synths ebb and flow like a slow tide, dragging back and forth against a sparse, heartbeat pule of a beat on ‘Shiny Nowhere’, and it sets the sparse tone perfectly, and ‘Felt Absence’, with its slow backward-swelling remind into deletion encapsulates the mood perfectly. It’s not about what there is, but what there isn’t: that absence, that lack. It doesn’t feel right; even the air quality is different, and listening through an open window, there is birdsong, there is stillness… and so little else.

Elemental themes run through Ghost Poems: ‘Snowy Water’; ‘Rough Air’, and similarly, the sky is at the heart of the vistas which present themselves: ‘Ochre Sky’; ‘Deep Sky’; ‘Slate Horizon’. Looking out, and looking up, there was a strange stillness, an emptiness, above as below. Where did the time go? Two years have evaporated into this expanse of sky, and life has returned. Talk of ‘the great pause’ and ‘new normal’ have drifted away on the breeze. For all the fear of the pandemic, there was a certain optimism that something fresh and new may rise from the silence, from the space; perhaps a new green dawn, perhaps a kinder capitalism, a world without endless traffic, where the work/life balance may lean more towards life. All of these contemplations are spun into the soft, gentle airiness of Ghost Poems, an album suffused with calm, with a quiet optimism. This may have already been lost, buried in the clamour of the return, but Earthen Sea has captured that moment when there was a reserved sense of hope.

Listening to Ghost Poems compels one to sat back, and breathe in, slowly, deeply, to fully expand the lungs, and then exhale, again, slowly. Perhaps there is still hope after all.

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This is it Forever – 25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There are many artists who can boast bodies of work that are solid, and illuminated by outstanding gems along the way, but there are few artists with bosies of work as consistent as worriedaboutsatan. Fifteen years into the project’s existence, that’s a significant achievement. Some artists go off the boil or seem to struggle with maintaining that level once they achieve a certain degree of success, whether it’s simply through a perceived pressure to deliver something or create something that will replicate whatever it was that achieved that success, or simply diminishing returns, but worriedaboutsatan, despite having tracks featured on Coronation Street and Adam Curtis’ Hypernormalisation documentary, not to mention radio play on both 6Music and Radio 1, and the very vocal support of one Ian Rankin, remain unstinting in their path.

Operating solo since 2019, Gavin Miller has maintained a constant flow of output: so constant that since Providence last May, Miller’s slipped out a brace of album-length single track releases (Circles I and Circles II) and an EP Live from the Studio that entirely bypassed me while I was, well, I don’t know, what was I doing?

The thing about consistency is that it absolutely does not equate to sameness, and worriedaboutsatan’s output is defined by its evolution, incorporating wide-ranging stylistic elements from delicate post-rock to pounding beats within the overall sphere of haunting, reflective ambience of varying shades of darkness and light. And while satan’s sounds exist in a rarefied space all of their own, no-one lives in a complete bubble. We live in dark times, and not insensitive to this, this latest offering finds Gavin channelling that global turbulence through his work.

Bloodsport promises a departure, and it delivers. Miller describes it as ‘still very much a worriedaboutsatan album, albeit a fairly angry one.’ It’s a fair summary. The intro piece, ‘Je Suis Désolé’ is a classically ‘electronic’ composition with oscillating waves cutting across one another, but the treble tones sound like sharpening knives, and it has an edge that scrapes at the skull quite unexpectedly.

Making a linguistic and stylistic switch, ‘Bis Ich Komme’ is slow and dubby, a dense bass and backed-off beats holding the structure of a drifting ambience, before it solidifies and hardens around the mid-point. There’s a tension, a simmering aggression in the tone of the barbed synths, something uncomfortable and uncertain in the samples, before jungle beats hammer through the woozy, stomach-clenching undulations like machine gun fire

Released ahead of the album as an EP with three remixes, ‘Sigourney Weaver Fanclub President’ is the theoretical lead single, and it’s a brooding eight-and-a-half minutes of echoes guitar sustain and crashing sheet metal. It’s the sound of shattering destruction and trepidation. It’s classic ‘satan in that it’s all the layers, all the atmosphere, but it’s also steelier, with a certain bite previously unheard.

The two parts of the centrepiece, ‘An Absolute Living Hell’ are definitive and are a statement in themselves. Dark, dank, oppressive, bass-heavy and bursting with shards of extraneous noise, rippling in deep, deep echo, this diptych is the soundtrack to this bleak moment in time. ‘Part 2’ goes full industrial with a throbbing bass and crashing percussion worthy of Test Dept or Neubauten.

The stark robotix of the brief but claustrophobic ‘Perfekt’ makes for possibly the least WAS-like track of their career, before the metronomic thud of ‘Slur They Words’, dives headlong into the territory darkest hi-hop: the origins of the vocals are unclear, but they’re abrasive, and ‘Apex Redditor’ draws the curtain in a bleak fashion, but with a redemptive hint of a rippling piano and twitchy percussion that – I hope – alludes the prospect of a new dawn. Because surely, surely, there has to be a light at the end of this tunnel.

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Dret Skivor – 4th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Swedish DIY microlabel Dret Skivor continue their steady programme of a release a month – and while the number of physical copies of releases are minuscule, it makes for a sustainable model, and those who obtain them have a bona fide rarity. The noise scene loves this kind of thing, but then, so does the market of the arts more broadly: limited editions are certainly nothing new as a selling point, but here it’s also a practical consideration.

Consequently, Dret 13, Fern’s Illustration of Sound Waves, which was released early February, is sold out now in physical format – but then there were only eight cassettes dubbed, so it’s hardly surprising.

Dret 14 sees Claus Poulsen and Dave Procter reunited once again, with experimental duo PP creating sound both indoors and outdoors last autumn to celebrate the imminent onset of winter. Being in Sweden, they have proper winters worthy of celebration. The release features two versions of ‘Drone for Autumn’ – a studio and a live take, with the latter being edited to 14:49 to fit on one side of a C30 cassette. It’s a nice detail for trainspotters (and as someone who has obsessively collected ‘versions’ from back when multiple formats was the cash-cow of choice for record labels, I consider myself among them).

It’s droney, alright. It’s a thick, quivering, mid-range oscillation that shudders away at the heart of the composition, and it rings out solidly on the studio version, while murky wisps and whirls and vaporous incidentals intersect and bisect the continuous stream of rough-edged sound. It creates a certain tension, but mostly, it creates a rich atmosphere: not overtly dark, but more shadowy, twilit. The drone wheezes on and on. Stars shoot across the darkening sky – or are they lasers or satellites falling out of orbit? There is some loose semblance of linearity, through a succession of, if not specifically crescendos, then swells and ebbs, and the arrival of a grinding organ amidst the whistling winds adds further texture. It may not evoke any specific seasonality, but in adhering to a core drone and building around it, P and P imbue the work with a bleak monotony that reflects the slow passage of time.

The live ‘version’ is less a performance of the same piece and more of a further exploration of a theme, starting with a looped vocal snippet that fades into a slow, rolling electric piano. The notes decay into crackle and there’s much more by way of extraneous noise, distant radios and chatter and rumbling here – not to mention the absence of that central continuous drone that defines and dominates the studio piece. With so many random sounds fading in and out, it’s more or less a cut-up / collage piece (some well-known 80s tunes drift through before being swallowed by a churning noise like a toilet flushing), and it’s quite bewildering in its effect on the senses and general orientation. There’s even some gentle acoustic folk guitar near the end. It’s hard to draw anything solid from it, or even really define the experience, but as an experimental electroacoustic work, it’s nicely done, with a clear sense that the artists are revelling in the process of working together to draw this array of source materials together, and it works well.

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