Posts Tagged ‘Ambient’

Gizeh Records – 31st August 2018

The Great Lake Swallows is a collaboration between Canadian cellist Julia Kent and Belgian guitarist/tape machine manipulator Jean D.L. The former came to my attention some time ago, and her nuanced style of playing had yielded some compelling works. Jean DL, however is an unknown quantity to me, and I came to approach the release without any real preconceptions. I leave it with none either. It’s ambient and droney, but offers infinite layers. The Great Lake Swallows doesn’t really fit anywhere in terms of genre, and this is very much a positive. Sometimes, music simply is.

The Great Lake Swallows is a graceful and co-ordinated suite in four parts, and finds the duo creating sonic interplay that displays a certain musical connection, even telepathy. Collaborations of this type, which find musicians with such different approaches (and modes of instrumentation) requires a certain intuition to achieve coherence.

Its brevity contrasts with its scale and scope. The four tracks have a total running time of a shade over 25 minutes, but the aching cello bends and melts over hushed, brooding atmospherics to create compositions of great atmospheric depth and imbued with great significance. At times manifesting as dark portent, others seeping sadness without words to describe it, the layers build and pull at the senses almost subliminally.

The press release informs us the album was recorded in Charleroi, Belgium in 2015 during a video installation with Sandrine Verstraete, and that the music was created using field recordings, processed guitar and cello and serves as a soundtrack to the video of the same name. And the soundtrack qualities of the compositions are very much evident: the parts bleed together to forge a single, continuous piece, which slowly and subtly transition between place and mood.

On ‘Part 3’, a low throb slowly oscillates beneath the ebb and flow of strings that weft and warp, before ‘Part Four’ forges an expansive vista of surge and swell, as ghostly voices echo in the shadowy background. The effect is haunting, but also beautiful and as a whole, the work is deeply evocative. The Great Lake Swallows doesn’t just occupy space, but creates it.

AA

GZH84DP-Sleeve

Constellations – 24th August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Automatisme is the moniker of reclusive glitch artist and electronic music producer William Jourdain. Transit is the follow-up to 2016 debut Momentform Accumulations, and has been formulated using modular synth racks and a vast library of field recordings.

As the title suggests, Transit is an album of movement. In transit are not only the creators, but the listener, who finds themselves being taken – often at pace – to unexpected destinations. But there is no stopping – each port of call is no more than a glance and a wave out of the window, perhaps a quick photo, before you’re on the move again.

The first suite – ‘Bureau’, a work in four movements, combines ambience and rhythm to often disorientating effect, and explores brooding expanses of sound and juxtaposes them with often jolting beats. ‘Bureau 0’ rapidly shifts from softly swirling cloudlike ambience to snarling, grating overloading noise – and back again. Blast of distorted beats and speaker-crackling overdrive create some disturbing kind of Dalek disco. ‘Bureau 1’ casts shades of gloopy glitchtronica which crackles and hisses, before bleeding into the more overtly groove-orientated ‘Bureau 2’. Groove is all relative, of course, and there are natural non-beat-orientated rhythms, too: shuddering oscillations swell like thunder on ‘Bureau 3’.

‘Registrariat’ stands alone between the ‘Bureau’ and ‘Bateau’ suites, and forges a more overtly dance beat. Only, the tempos shift erratically and sampled voices echo in the swirling sonic mists, and it gets too fast and before long, you feel your heart race increasing and instead of wanting to get down, you’re on the edge of panic.

The two-part ‘Bateau’ builds tonal intensity and volume, culminating in a dense eddying swell of noise that fills the cranium and creates an all-encompassing throb.

And it’s only at the final destination – a roar that abruptly leaves silence – that the album’s overall route becomes clear, a deleterious course from A to B via Z, Q and an unexpected assortment of curious places. You cast your eyes back over the map but it by no means conveys the experience of the territory. And after a pause, a moment of quiet reflection, you can’t quite recall the sequence of events that brought you here. You turn, and start to retrace your steps…

AA

cover_1528731707797039

The Helen Scarsdale Agency – HMS048 – 17th August 2018

The pitch for Maps’ as ‘minor-key’ where ‘tear-stained notes of piano, organ, and guitar veer along elliptical orbits as a soft-whisper lilt of Ekin’s voice narrates more by emotive decree than by literary couplet’ is but a flavour.

The album is largely inspired by her first winter on an island in the Sea of Marmara, away from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, Maps is a completive work that reflects on experiencing silence and isolation. It’s relatable, and as is so often the case, in the personal lies the universal.

Isolation is not necessarily geographic, and distance doesn’t need to be great (the Sea of Marmara lies within the greater metropolitan umbrella of Istanbul) to have an effect on the psyche. Distance also needn’t be geographic: there’s no distance more isolating than emotional distance. It’s immeasurable, impossible to quantify, but manifests as a relentless ache, a sense of emptiness that sits in the gut and echoes around the chamber of the chest cavity. Mere inches in physical terms count for nothing when there’s that separation, and it grows to a pulling desperation, a gap that can’t be bridged. So close, and yet so far… just out of reach. There’s no-one to turn to, nowhere to go. Because you’re alone. And there are no words. Maps charts a journey through inner space, its hesitant notes representing the hesitant steps into unknown territory, alone.

On Maps, there are no words: this is the language of sound which communicates the message in its entirety. The warm-tones and sparse arrangements define the atmosphere of Maps. Fuzzy-edged guitar notes hanging in rarefied air for an eternity allude to Fil’s delicate, understated approach. Her music is sparse yet warm, delicate yet rich.

It’s a remarkably quiet, soft, understated work. It isn’t that nothing happens, but that evens unfurl discreetly, subtly, solely, with a certain delicacy. Organ wheezes as feedback whines on ‘Away’, while on the majority of the compositions, it’s a soft, echo-soaked piano that provides the main focus for this hushed, sparse song sequence which drifts together to create a very natural flow.

Maps doesn’t offer a direct route from A to B. But it does remind that the map is not the territory, and that the geographical terrain is not the mental space.

hms_048_M2

Christopher Nosnibor

Paul K first came to my attention with the release of Glitch Code’s debut album, Gifted_Damaged, a real standout release for 2016 in the sphere of dark electronic pop. Omertà saw Paul venture out as a solo artist last year, and revealed a very different musical aspect: instrumental, dramatic, and in places a bit proggy, it found him explore some expansive sonic territories with impressive results.

The Fermi Paradox sees Kirkpatrick expand on this – immensely. And expand is the word: this is expansive both conceptually and sonically, and he explained that ‘the album is about the theme of isolation, exploring our place in the universe and questions “are we alone?” to the perspective of social isolation through social media… It looks at the space race and the billions spent on wondering if we are alone in the universe vs. the juxtaposition of so many lonely people on our own planet.’

As such, The Fermi Paradox ranges from the macro to the micro, casting an eye to the farthest reaches to the most inner of anxieties. So while in terms of what it delivers, The Fermi Paradox isn’t a million miles from its predecessor, in terms of intent and focus, it’s a very different beast from Omertà.

Such isolation is something that’s immensely relatable: I’ve found myself in discussions with a surprising number of people, many with anxiety issues, conflicted over social media. It’s a different kind of paradox from the question of alien lifeforms the title refers to, but nevertheless, it’s a paradox. The dependence on the endless stream of posts and comments is countered by the despondency the belief that your own life is no match for others’, the sense that other people breeze through life, happy and carefree while your own life is fucked. Any sense of connection feels flimsy, secondary to a sense of disconnection and inadequacy. And what happens when, just for five r ten minutes, your phone goes silent: no texts, no notifications? The silence you’ve been craving is a howling void of emptiness.

It’s with ponderous piano and soothing strings that ‘Anomaly’ opens the album, and it’s mellow but twistedly poignant. It’s clear that Kirkpatrick knows how to tug at the emotions without words. The motif that runs through ‘Sagan’ makes me think of ‘Forever Autumn’ from ‘The War of the Worlds’ – surely one of the most heartbreaking songs ever committed to tape. Or maybe I’m just a sap. Nevertheless, regardless of whether this is about the music itself or my response to it based on, its drift into lilting piano and achingly sad strings is simply beautiful.

It’s on ‘Ecce Homo’ that Paul reaches into expansive territory, a cinematic, layered progressive-style piece with soaring chorals and supple rhythms, it drives, but also meanders. At times, as on the opening of ‘Exegesis’, Kirkpatrick slides into near-ambient territory, but for the most part, it’s about sedate, spacious soundscapes, defined by rolling, soft-edged bass. As the album progresses, the song titles suggest a shift from the more inward-looking to gazing out into the cosmos.

Are we alone? Always. Intensely. But with The Fermi Paradox, Paul K has produced a magnificently-crafted soundtrack to play into the void.

513298210

Hyperdelia – HEX002

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems to be something almost unique to the world of experimental and avant-garde music, that the titles are directly descriptive, functional, literal. Imagine if the practise was adopted in the genres of rock or indie. How would releases like Angsty shit ripping off the Foo Fighters, Adolescents who are pissed off because we can’t get laid and Ten three-minute derivative jangly guitar-based songs about life in college be received? Actually, they’d probably still sell infinitely more units than releases like this, but the point of differentiation is that this is art, and commercial considerations really are not leading factors in determining the work or its release into the public domain.

We learn that Womb is ‘a musical narration for abstracted ears and bodies – engulfing a listener simultaneously in subaquatic sonic environments, distant dreams of childhoods, memories and voices from the unknown: where time and space fold into each other.

The initial material of field-recordings of nature and body sounds, interviews and compositions has been re-recorded and re-amped underwater in a swimming pool – and has been re-arranged (partly by way of the impulse responses of the pool) now for stereo home listening.’ And so we’re very deeply into literal territory here.

It’s watery and muffled, womb-like every second of the way. ‘Cocoon’ sounds like someone typing – quite slowly, unsteadily – while slow ambient music with whale song and slow, arrhythmic beats pulse, all heard with cotton wool in one’s ears. ‘The Garden’ is a long, slow ebb and flow of elongated dronage, spiralling contrails of vapour and mist, an eddying vortex of mid-range that twists ethereal, occasionally rent with bulbous belches of sound which echo out beyond the reaches of perception.

The beats are glitches, pulses, crackles and thudding heartbeats, incongruously urgent and pacey and at odds with the sedate sonic swirls that hover and hang, Samples, muffled and heavily filtered, are abstracted amidst twittering birdsong, wide-sweeping drones, ominous fear tones and unsettling extranea.

The focus is beyond soft: it’s submerged, out of reach. Everything about Womb is warm, supple. There is a sense of depth – immense depth that extends beyond sound to the absolute core of being. A slow immersion that works its way inside, Womb is both meditative and introspective, and while it’s very much conceptual, it succeeds independently as a soundwork.

AA

AA

Kajasa Lindgren – Womb

Room40 – RM481 – 13th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Norman Westberg’s first full-length album since the termination of SWANS in its most recent configuration marks something of a departure, both in terms of sound and approach. Having previously recorded his solo works by what he calls his ‘one take; it is what it is’ method, After Vacation is a project of evolution, and also of collaboration, with Lawrence English acting as producer, weaving together the parts to create rich layers. The press release refers to Westberg’s ‘web of outboard processes, with delays, reverbs, and other treatments all transforming the sound of the instrument’s output. And yet After Vacation feels like so much more than this, as the guitar itself fades into the distance beneath the effects. The results are evocative, with careful details overlaid onto the broad washes of sound which define the compositional forms.

The album begins in expansive and haunting style, with what sounds like brooding, atmospheric orchestral strings and tense piano, but the shadowy shade of ‘Soothe the String’, like all of the album’s six pieces, features nothing but guitar. And with it Westberg creates lustrous layers of sound, drifting sonic mists and hazy hues. ‘Sliding Sledding’ forms an immensely deep, slow-turning swirl that moves like vapour, through which single notes ripple as they echo and fade.

The individual compositions are formed through subtle shifts and delicate transitions, and offer distinct and separate moods. However, they melt into one another, to create a vast vista of soft-edged ambience.

The title track which draws the curtain on the set marks a departure from the rest of the album, as Westberg picks at his guitar in an almost folksy fashion, and it sounds like a conventional guitar, although it’s accompanied by an organ-like drone that hovers in a long, unchanging note, which gradually rises to the fore as the plucked notes fade into the distance.

There’s a certain comfort in this conclusion, bringing the listener as it does to more familiar ‘guitar’ territory while still emblematising the experimental, treatment-orientated approach to reconfiguring the sound of the instrument.

#

AA

Norman Westberg - After Vacation