Posts Tagged ‘Ambient’

A Front Recordings – AFR01

Christopher Noosnibor

A paroxysm is either a fit, attack, or sudden increase or recurrence of symptoms, or a sudden violent emotion or action, an outburst.

This paroxysm – the act – consists of Werner Dafeldecker (double bass) and Roy Carroll (electracoustic media), and between them, they forge a paroxysm – the work – which is a sustained sonic spasm consisting of two longform compositions that each extend to around the twenty-five minute mark.

This is one of those works that doesn’t really feel or sound like the sum of its parts – partly because it’s difficult to disentangle precisely what the parts actually are. Especially when it comes to ‘electracoustic media’. That’s not a criticism, so much as a passing critique: this isa collection of soundscapes forged from sounds of non-specific origin. Ominous hums and drones and scrapes and hesitant feedback loops all toss and turn together to conjure an ever-shifting expanse of amorphous, mellifluous sound. Clunks and thunks and clatters provide a percussive element of sorts, but again, these sounds are non-specific in their origins. As notes hang, quivering, or otherwise scrawl and hover around certain frequencies, the way they resonate and rub against one another becomes the listening focus. Listen closely, and some notes just nip the side of consciousness, and they’re bearable until there’s a friction against other frequencies, other rates of resonance. Upper-frequency chimes and tinkles collide with lower-end clanks and thuds, the swing of heavy bells decay slowly over shivering, shuddering extranea. It’s a slow creep, and while the sound never settles, over time one grows accustomed to the whistling, the how, and the hum.

If side two’s ‘Basalt’ contains all of the same elements as ‘Tendencies’, that’s because Paroxysm is a work that’s very much focused on detail, and progressively delves deeper into it with cumulative effect. As such, ‘Basalt’ is starker, sparser, sonically harder in every sense – but particularly tonally, and as an experience. Around the mid-point things get really dark and murky, before the percussion dominates the final minutes of slashing, crashing, difficult sounds.

And this – THIS – is the point of paroxysm. For most of the album, it feels drony hummy scrapy, but it emerges climactic, dense, a physical force that is longer merely background. It comes by stealth but hits by force. Boom. Never underestimate the subtle, slow build.

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Hallow Ground – 10th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Breathing is important. If this sounds flippant or facetious, well, perhaps it is a little, but there is a more serious undertone. It’s something we do subconsciously, and something we take for granted will just happen as our brain keeps the bellows pumping. We only really notice breathing when something disrupts it, it becomes laboured, or we’ve exercised hard.

And yet the importance and benefits of controlled breathing as part of meditation, for managing anxiety, and for dealing with panic attacks is widely documented and promoted. But even for those who have been taught the techniques, how often do we remember to deploy them at moments of peak crisis? Moreover, beyond those specific settings, breathing properly is something that’s chronically neglected as we slouch over our keyboards, taking short, shallow breaths that fail to fully expand the lungs and oxygenate the blood stream.

The ever-innovative and ever-intriguing Lawrence English’s Hallow Ground debut finds the composer working ‘exclusively with an organ for four compositions that are exercises in »maximal minimalism,« as their creator himself notes in a nod to Charlemagne Palestine, who coined this term.’ The liner notes explain further that ‘While it seems somewhat fitting that those four pieces based on a steady flow of air were conceived and recorded in a situation of accelerated standstill caused by a respiratory disease, the Room40 founder is not so much concerned with capturing the zeitgeist than rather incorporating the spirit of time itself. »It is a record about presence and patience,«’.

Patience is indeed required when listening to Observation of Breath. It stands to reason that there is a concerted focus on elongated, quivering drones, and the first of the four pieces, the ten-minute ‘The Torso’, with its dank, dark rumblings and extraneous interference carries sinister allusions, particularly when reflected upon in context of the album’s cover art. The torso may well house the lungs, the system of breathing, but all too often finds reference in stories of murder and dismemberment, and we’ve all wanted to strip off our own skin at some point, right?

The theme continues its trajectory in the titles of ‘A Binding’ and ‘A Twist’ which follow. These are short pieces, both sparse, droning works that are overtly organ, with the latter in particular taking the form of a gloomy funereal church recital. There’s nothing like a funeral to make you contemplate your breaths, and to consider how many you may have left in your body. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we ignore and avoid thinking about breathing: the moment we notice it, be it short or irregular, we worry, in the same way as we panic about palpitations. To become cognisant is likely to observe an irregularity, a difficulty, in a most fundamental function, and rightly or wrongly, doing so reminds us of our mortality. We hate to be reminded of our mortality: it terrifies us half to death. The irony.

In context, the album’s finale, the twenty-minute title track, which occupies the entirety of the album’s second side, on which all elements of the previous three compositions coalesce and distil into something monumental and epic. Not a lot happens: it’s simply a quavering continuum of sound that undulates and eddies slowly, unfalteringly, less like a stream than a crawling flow of larva. But to go with the flow is to fully engage with the album and its slow-shifting textures. It’s perhaps around halfway through ‘Observation of Breath’ that I finally realise I am becoming aware of my breathing at last. Conscious, I slow it, inhale to full expansion through the nose, hold, then equally slowly release out through the mouth.

Observation of Breath is a well-realised exploration of expansive territory in altogether smaller detail, and one that offers more the more you allow it to become a backdrop.

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16th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Instead of submitting to the endless flow of media panic and hunkering down in his house during the pandemic, Stuart Chalmers went rather more off-grid, spending the last year in a camper van, exploring the Pennines and North York Moors.

The Heart Of Nature is the last in the series of the Swarmandal-focused albums, a celebration of nature’s elements, inspired by this period of a closer proximity to nature. Stuart recounts how the experience brought him closer to ‘the natural world and its rhythms/cycles’, and given him ‘a sense that nature can be calm but also intense and full of violent energy’. He goes on to explain that ‘The making of this album through the autumn/winter with the change in weather along with my laptop dying, the heater failing and the van breaking down has been a tough experience,’, adding, ‘it’s been one of the hardest albums for me to finish’.

I’m no advocate of the training mantra ‘no pain, no gain’, but do often find – and I speak from experience here – that the art that emerges from the most challenging of conditions is not only the most satisfying to produce, but so often has the greatest impact and resonance. The heart and soul that goes into a work shines, amplified, in the output.

The six pieces on The Heart Of Nature are based on the elements and raw materials occurring in the natural world: earth, wood, metal, fire, water, air. The first of these, ‘Earth’, powerfully captures the turbulence and variability of nature, and is dominated by a grumbling, rumbling, the shuddering subterranean sound of tectonic displacement, that gradually fades as a slow-picked guitar emerges and a hesitant sun rises over a barren. Scene. Beneath the supple chimes and grating discord and scraping drones that lumber and lurch. It sounds, and feels, immense, something bigger than sound alone, than the artist alone, and it’s an intense and difficult seven minutes that introduces the landscape of the album.

‘Wood’ is more of a collection of found sounds, with animal calls and chattering birds, pattering feet, paired with extraneous sounds and a clattering, clanking beat that’s some way from nature. Things become quite tribal, the metallic chanking speaking more of humankind’s relationship with nature than of nature itself, while ‘Metal’ creeps into dark ambient / industrial territory, with ominous whisps drifting around and the clanking precision – but it’s on ‘Fire’ things intensify, with the crackle of flames yielding to the harsh clatter of industrial percussion. There are hissing surges of sound rushing like gas bursting from ruptured pipes, and it’s not until ‘Water’ that the album introduces some sense of calm following a long journey navigating troubled spaces.

This only highlights the idea behind the album, that of the violent energy of nature. We seem to have idealised nature as that idyllic country setting, as something that merely exists for our wellbeing or profit, and in doing so diminishing the forces of nature – typhoons, cyclones. tsunamis, earthquakes, blizzards, floods. We are in denial somehow over the extent to which we are at nature’s mercy. We build flood defences, structures to prevent longshore drift and the collapse of cliffs, but ultimately, we’re powerless against time and tide.

‘Nature doesn’t need us, but we need nature’, Chalmers remarks, and I can’t help but agree: nature would in fact be better off without us, and the acceleration of climate change is concrete evidence of this. If nature destroys us, it’s because we’ve brought it upon ourselves by fucking with nature – and if one thing is clear, nature will always win. Whatever damage we’ve wrought, it’s simply suicide. The planet will still exist long after we’ve vacated, long after it’s inhabitable by human life. Humanity will eventually go the way of the dinosaurs, but nature will still be here.

The emptiness of the final track, the seven-and-a-half-minute ‘Air’’ is the perfect summary. The wind buffets against everything in its way and sparse notes hang in post-rock drift. It’s a beautiful piece of music, but it’s also sparse and melancholy, and with a certain Western twang, it carries the bleakness of the wild frontiers, reminding us of the adversarial relationship between man and nature, and the need to respect the wonder.

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Anticipating Nowhere Records – 24th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

With the colossal five-volume ‘Isolation and Rejection’ lockdown compilation series and the one-off final final FINAL Front&Follow project, the compilation You Can Never Leave released in June, the eternally restless Justin Watson can put his label to bed and resume work with his current musical vehicle, the collective who operate as The Incidental Crack to deliver album number two. After all, it has been more than three months since second album Municipal Music.

The three – Justin Watson, Rob Spencer and Simon Proffitt – are still yet to meet, and their third album, like its predecessors, took form with ‘them exchanging field recordings, samples and random noise between Manchester, Wigan and North Wales’.

As the liner notes recount, ‘Detail contains within three new long-form pieces and a couple of shorter ones filling in the gaps. The adage goes that the devil is in the detail, and Detail brings exactly what the title promises, with the first composition, ‘We Might Bump Into each Other’ beginning with some muffled dialogue and an ominous hum, then hums, bubbles and slurps against a backdrop of echoic reverberations, before ‘Fish Dance Tank Track’ marks a shift in style, with more defined beats – an insistent bass bump occupies a different space from the glitchy fluttering woodpecker-type stammers and stuttering hi-hats which all make for something quite complex beneath the drifting drones and quavering hums. It’s an interesting and complex composition that brings together elements of ambient and minimal techno, and as birdsong flutters in toward the end, the piece takes on new aspects that juxtapose nature and artifice.

That the grating looping throb of the six-and-a-half minute ‘Waterfalls Per Capita’ should be considered a gap-filler is a matter of context, and it comes after the harrowing dark ambient collage of ‘I Lost It’, that is by no means a comfortable or easy listen.

The seventeen-minute ‘Morning Tram’ combines field recordings where the original source remains clear, but with subtle but insistent beats, and it’s perhaps there – the finale – that everything comes together. Fragmented samples and snippets of dialogue collide with tumbling trees and slow-turning washes of ambience to create remarkable depth. Passengers pass on and off, engines rumble past, there is endless chatter and a wall of extraneous sound. Assimilating it all may be difficult, but it’s rewarding. The beat is almost subliminal, but it’s relentlessly insistent and registers almost subliminally as the sound swells and voiced clamour and congeal among a rising tide of horns and other momentous sounds. And then it stops, abruptly.

It may be short in terms of tracks, but Detail has substantial depth – and much detail, all of which is very much worth exploring.

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‘Kalahari’ is the opening track on All Becomes Desert, an album of improvised analogue soundscapes by London based musician and composer Ian Williams that evokes the hostile beauty of the most spectacularly empty places on earth. The velvety warm, undulating tones of his Roland Juno 106 provide a perfect setting for the meditative sonic backdrop of the piece.

In regard to its video, Williams explains that “it was originally planned to be shot with a nine strong crew during a two week safari to the hostile climes of the actual Kalahari desert, honest, but due to circumstances beyond our control – scuppered by the pandemic, would you believe it – we had to improvise a Plan B, sticking a sand art picture in front of an iPad, which, we’re pretty sure, will be convincing to the vast majority of viewers. And it still looks really cool, so who’s complaining?”

Listen here:

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Room40 – RM4130 – 13th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m still recovering from the last Celer release I covered – the four-disc Future Predictions, released only last summer. It wasn’t harsh or sonically challenging: it was just really, really long. This one, however, is rather shorter, comprising twelve tracks with a running time of just twenty-nine minutes.

It is, notably a departure. As the press notes detail, with In Light Of Blues, ‘[Will] Long pivots away from long-form works to create a series of vignettes that capture the essence of his aesthetics interests. The record condenses and refines his compositional methodologies forming each piece as an acoustic miniature speckled in hazy harmony and evocative tonality’.

As such, as much as In Light Of Blues is a departure, it is also very much a continuation of his previous work, while concentrating it down to shorter snippets – but with no loss of power or depth. Long’s comments on the reason for this departure are illuminating:

‘It was months ago, but it could have been weeks, days, or even hours since then. I stopped wanting to hear loops, I wanted to stop it. I added brass; trumpets, trombones, and more horns. I cut it out like words from a book, and sewed it back together. Burroughs. These movements are merely to stay alive, to stay moving.’

In citing [William] Burroughs, Long’s observation that ‘You wake up from a truck horn passing in the early morning hours on the nearby freeway, or from a dream that you can’t tell was a nightmare or a loving memory… Someone walks by on the street wearing the same perfume. I drew out each place, each scene, and put the story there. It might have been with you, or without you. All I know is that you were there somehow the whole time, even if you weren’t’ marks a striking parallel with some of Burroughs’ statements on the way the cut-up technique was an attempt to being art closer to life: “every time you walk down the street, your stream of consciousness is cut by random factors… take a walk down a city street… you have seen half a person cut in two by a car, bits and pieces of street signs and advertisements, reflections from shop windows – a montage of fragments”.

While the pieces on In Light Of Blues are composed from a montage of fragments, instead of jarring against one another and crossing over one another to replicate the blizzard of simultaneity that is life, they blur together to create a slow-creeping sonic mist. The details are obscured, the edges indistinct, the definition vague to almost absent. Some of the pieces are fragments in themselves: the second of the three ‘Melancholy Movement’ compositions is only fractionally over a minute long, and there are a number of pieces of similarly brief duration.

Time appears to be something of a leading preoccupation on In Light Of Blues, as titles including ‘Days Before the Change’, ‘In the Intimate Hours’, ‘After All Time’, and ‘Precious Past Hours’ indicate. The titles suggest a certain urgency, an anxiety, even, over the passing of time that’s not necessarily apparent in the music itself. But as is so often the case, with ambient / abstract musical forms, the music conveys only some aspects of the full meaning or intention, and beneath comparatively tranquil surfaces often lie more trouble currents, and there are numerous billows of darker, denser sound which rumble and stir, evoking brewing storms amidst the soft layers of the pieces here.

Perhaps this is the real pleasure – and perhaps also the purpose – of In Light Of Blues. It’s an album that can simply be allowed to drift along in the background, the darker clouds occasionally tugging the attention while, in the main, it may pass largely without the demand for focus. But closer attention yields greater rewards, in the sonic depths and subtle textures that reveal themselves through that engagement, and to seek the space beneath the surface, to explore its context and origins and consider what it may mean beyond the surface yields more still.

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Ventil Records – V026 – 4th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Ultimately, it’s apparent now that social media changed everything. But one thing specific was the relationship between artist and audience. Historically, the distance between the two was clear and also integral. The last, ten to fifteen years hasn’t only seen that separation eroded, but a certain expectation that the artist should engage directly with the audience via online platforms, be it social media or a blog maintained as a part of their website. As a marketing tool, it makes sense, but it’s hard not to feel that something has been lost along the way. Is it right that the artist should be made accessible, or that there should be an expectation of there being some kind of quite direct interaction? It’s not even necessarily about maintaining a persona or a degree of enigma: many artists are introverts by nature, and don’t create art to stand in the limelight in front of it. Many artists create to escape something, or simply to expel or have an outlet for that which they cannot convey by any other means.

I’m often not particularly communicative myself. I don’t want to talk about it, whatever it is – assuming I even know. I simply want to write or make ‘music’. But I did, recently post on Facebook about how I often berate myself for not being as productive as I would like to be. People were largely sympathetic, but few, it would seem, truly ‘got it.’

One artist who truly does understand that eternal restlessness is polyartist Maja Osojnik, and her quest for creativity is unstinting. Having been involved in several visual exhibitions, a live stream, and various compositions in recent months, she’s also recorded an album with collaborator Matija Schellander to deliver the debut Rdeča Raketa (Red Rocket) album.

This album is both very ‘now’ and also very much an expiration of the human condition, specifically its failings and how communication is key, but very much prone to failure.

As the liner notes outline, ‘…and cannot reach the silence deals with the current world of misunderstandings, communicating past each other, willingly and unwillingly overlooking or ignoring each other’s meanings via various fast-paced forms and platforms of communication; and, with that, the tightening of incompatible parallel “realities.” It explores forms of violence; physical and verbal, external and self-inflicted. It explores forms of power; the dangerous thin line between giving power to and giving power over oneself, and forms of subjugation and addiction on both societal and, more significantly, on interpersonal levels. “… Look at us! Beasts, bottomless pits, never to be full! To be fulfilled. Glued onto each other in sweat, a never-ending pain and evenly spread, at all times…”

They go on to ask, ‘In those dark, dystopian lyrics, full of questions, such as “What is being said and what stays unspoken? Who does it refer to? Who is protecting whom? For what reasons? Who is being addressed or what needs to be considered?” the wish, the need and the struggle for self-empowerment, honesty, love and reconciliation is exposed or, at the very least, nourished.’

All of this resonates, and deeply. Only yesterday, I had been considering how depth of conversation seems to have evaporated. People have neither the time more the attention. Conversations were often cut short or curtailed or otherwise hurried back in the days of the office, but that was nothing compared to thee standard one- or two-line text exchanges, comments shared by Skype or Teams. We – collectively – don’t really ‘talk’ anymore. We’re paranoid, time-deprived, stressed. We’re also so polarised and entrenched in our oppositional viewpoints that there is no debate, only division. And with social media, 24/7 scrolling news and infinite notifications from apps, there is no respite – ever. There is no silence, wherever you may seek it.

The three longform compositions on …and cannot reach the silence are heavy and rich with atmosphere. The first, the ten-minute ‘the night is spilling across the room…’ approaches by stealth. A low, slow, ominous drone, intercut with aberrant thuds and squelches. An artisanal, wordless voice drifts in, and it’s haunting, ghostly, otherworldly. What does it mean? The lyrics, sung in a detached tone, are stark, bleak: ‘You were unspoken / She was born already broken….’ Eventually, the words drift out into a wordless undulating hum and the world slowly disintegrates.

The disintegration continues through the lumbering lurch of counterpart composition ‘…like gasoline’. Its slow, yawning rhythmic intonations evoke the heavy grind of SWANS circa 1986, relentless, booming, droning, and it’s the perfect backdrop to Maja’s semi—spoken vocal delivery. She’s robotic, inhuman, empty, even when articulating human emotions – ‘I want to you so bad, I want you so bad,’ she repeats at one point. But is it want, or is it need? Something less about choice or desire, and more about emotional survival? ‘I am tired’ she repeats, over and over, in tones ranging from weary to frustrated, defeated to angry, and you feel it – you know it. The articulation is comparable to one of Bruin Gysin’s permutational poems: only, instead if rearranging the words, the emphasis changes in order to find different meanings of the same words. This one resonates. The tiredness saps your life and saps your soul, and you feel the differences between ‘I’m tired, please leave me be,’ and ‘I’M TIRED! FUCK OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE!’

The third and final composition, ‘waiting it out’, is fifteen and a half minutes of ominousness. The vocals are all but submerged, a babble beneath the undulating drone and trilling. Synths crank up and head for take-off as they stray into the heavily phased world of early industrial and power electronics, a wheezing wall of wailing synths puffing and groaning and bleeping and whirring and all converging in a seething sonic mound. Towards the end, it ventures skywards in a succession of laser-guided rockets arcing into the sky.

…and cannot reach the silence is an album with an immense range, and an understated intensity – and a magnificent artistic achievement.

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Dret Skivor – DRET008 – 6th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest offering from Dret Skivor, a Swedish tape label specialising in drone and various shades of experimental noise, is the new album from Danish maker of electronic noise Thomas Li, who, as Li, has self-released almost a dozen works digitally. Biographical details are less than minimal, and that’s cool. Why do we need to know about the artist, their background or their back catalogue? Do we really need to know the context or the intent, the theory behind a work? Sometimes, when it’s an experimental work informed by theory or a certain concept, it helps, because the concept and theory are integral to both the process and the end product. Then again, there’s a danger that sometimes said theory or concept can impinge on one’s appreciation of the work. Sometimes, it’s best to just be able to listen, and allow oneself to be immersed in the sound, without pouring over lengthy liner notes, researching myriad avenues presented by the references, and straining one’s brain over concepts. This is particularly true of many works of a more ambient persuasion. I’m not remotely anti-academic or anti-intellectual – quite the opposite. But sometimes, you just need a break, and music can be the perfect conduit to vital headspace. An overemphasis on context can detract from the often underrated pleasure of simply listening, and enjoying.

Admittedly, enjoyment of an album like this is the preserve of a small minority: it doesn’t contain any ‘tunes’, it’s beatless, and it’s not always entirely mellow either. But it does have a great deal of texture, and this is something you can really lose yourself in.

Great Leap Forward contains three tracks, with side one occupied with the two-part ‘Olympia’ and the second side containing the eighteen-minute monster title track.

‘Olympia I’ is nine minutes of dense, churning drones, billowing sonic clouds that choke and smother, while counterpart ‘Olympia II’ gurgles and churns a dark whirling cyclone of sound. The latter is more interesting, sonically, with a lot more going on – meaning it’s also more challenging and more tense, as crackles and hums fizz and spin from the dank depths of bubbling noise.

The title track is altogether less tumultuous and more background ambient by comparison. Being eighteen minutes in duration, on the face of it, not a lot happens: there are no climactic blasts of noise, there’s nothing explosive or even overtly disruptive. And yet for all its subtlety, it is engaging, and there is movement, there are shifts and distract and divert. Howling winds blast over barren landscapes of drifting sand and strains of treble and whines of feedback emerge from the eternal mid-range rumble that drones on, and on, and on.

In the context of his output to date, this may not really be quite such a great leap forward, but it does clearly mark an evolution and an expansion on the soundscapes sculpted on previous works. And, played with the accompaniment of a candle and some CBD-infused beer, Great Leap Forward is a well-executed soundtrack to mental recuperation.

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Hallow Ground – HG2104 – 13th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

There are few things in life you can really rely on, but Hallow Ground is one of them, if you’re seeking music from the darker side. The clue’s pretty much in the name here: this is pretty dark. Of course it is. It’s also quite an interesting and unusual blend of styles and sounds, for while this forty-minute, seven-track work is predominantly instrumental and ambient in its leanings, it pushes wider and deeper than that, to span a range of territories, with often quite unsettling results.

DarkSonicTales is a project by Rolf Gisler, who was granted an artist residency in a 300-year-old farmhouse in the Swiss countryside in autumn 2019, by the label. How this sort of thing comes about, I’m not really sure, but there it is. I am a shade covetous of artists who get dedicated time and space to work on their art in whatever medium, because the simple fact is that in ordinary life there never seems to be enough time. For anything. And creativity requires headspace and time, both of which are rare and precious commodities.

Rolf seems to have made the most of his time, and the result is an album that’s varied in terms of form and tonality, which makes for a fascinating listening experience. From the mellow chiming of the short intro piece, ‘Info Pandemie’, to the eight-minute drone-swirl of ‘Best Buddies’ that drags the album to a slow-simmering conclusion in a bilious fog of sonic drift, DarkSonicTales is a deeply exploratory piece.

‘I Still Believe’ is a long, slow-burning, low-key, low-tempo gothy tune, where Gisler whispers in a baritone croon over a delicately picked guitar that’s hauntingly atmospheric and pinned down by a distant but insistent drum machine, its cracking snare cutting through the sonic haze.

‘Best Buddies’ brings the finale, and there’s a stuttering heartbeat drum flickering like a palpitation against the slow, majestic musical backdrop.

In some respects, it’s a challenge, simply because however much the album leans towards electronics, the way the instrumentation is used is so widely varied this feels like an album that’s harder to accommodate far more than it actually is. Somehow, the pieces of the jigsaw fit together.

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Fabrique Records – 18th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Berlin-based composer and sound artist Jana Irmert has approached her third album for Fabrique with a view to exploring the way in which sounds have a certain sensory aspect. There’s a way in which music touches us, not just aurally, nor emotionally: some music you really do feel. Beyond music at the louder, harsher end of the spectrum – be it electronic or more conventional in its instrumentation, this is something that is perhaps more common to experimental forms, where contrasting sounds and the shapes and textures of those sounds are more the focus than the unity of a collection of instruments for create ‘songs’.

Articulating how music makes you feel is one challenge, but articulating how music itself feels – or moreover, how the sounds themselves feel – is an immense challenge. Because writing, like any other art, can often reveal its authors limitations, however well they’re working. Every artist has their own personal limitation. Francis Bacon was unable to paint feet, for example. The greatest limitation is invariably the disparity between concept and execution, and often, for musicians, it’s articulating the sound in their head using actual instruments – or, if not articulating the sound, conveying complex emotions through the medium of sound.

Jana Irmert’s challenge here was to render one sensation through another. “I felt I wanted to get closer to the sounds, feel their structure and surface and how they contrast each other,” she says. And, during the process, her recordings yielded some quite unexpected results: “It turned out the processed sounds resulting from hard materials would often have soft and tonal qualities whereas those made from ‘soft’ materials like water or air would ultimately be of percussive or harsh and noisy character.”

The opening bars of the first piece, ‘Lament’, are unexpectedly dense and heavy, a rugged, grainy tone that grinds from the speakers before slowly tapering down to something rather more tranquil, yet draped with the weight of melancholy. Moving into ‘Against Light’, Irmert creates a much more upbeat ambience, a shimmering, shuffling stuttering of sound, and it’s gentle, but not entirely calming or comforting, like being stuck in a tractor beam, a glitching loop that affords no forward trajectory.

With the sounds of the sea, the title track initially seems like it will fulfil the description, offering something soft, soothing, immersive. But as layers build, darker sounds clunk and rumble and loom and lurk in thickening shadows.

There is a certain sense of progression over the course of the eight compositions, with more percussive sounds coming increasingly to the fore. In doing so, the album gradually moves from intangible to something altogether more substantial, its physicality developing an almost corporeal tangibility.

Listening to The Soft Bit, one feel as though one is somehow in nature, and surrounded by nature, from the clouds, and the air – invisible, yet capable of substantial force when moving as a wind – to solid objects – stones, trees, the ground beneath the feet. Listen, inhale it all in, and feel it flow.

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