Posts Tagged ‘atmosphere’

22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Penned in 2018 as a reaction to the effects of constant touring and international travel, and the sense of groundlessness it brought, ‘Deepest Ocean’ is the third single to be lifted from The fin.’s upcoming album. It finds the Japanese duo, consisting of Yuto Uchino and Kaoru Nakazawa in a reflective mood, and immersing themselves in some deep retro synth tones that truckle and weave over a slow grooving bassline.

It’s got a kind of vaguely funky vibe that’s a bit prog, a bit electrop, a bit 80s and a bit lounge. And even a bit disco: the clean guitar that nags away, coupled with the soft-focus production reminds me for some reason I can’t entirely pinpoint of Imagination (specifically ‘Body Talk’) and I really can’t decide if this is a good thing or not.

I mean, it’s certainly got a hook, and a strangely sultry atmosphere that’s not so much sleazy as semi-soporific in a smoky, opiate way, but it’s also a bit soft and wet, a shade limp in its smooth slickness. So where does this leave us? Clean, vibrant synths run ascending and descending runs, and things layer up deep, and fast over a metronomic key stab and backed-off beat.

I suppose it’s a matter of taste, and I’m flapping to and fro like a fish out f water wondering if I’ll get sold or left to rot, caring not one iota if I’m a British fish or not. It’s proficient musically, and on all technical levels from the composition, arrangement., performance and production, ‘Deepest Ocean’ is genuinely impressive, and conveys a sense of fuzziness, of being at all sea. But ultimately I feel the unsettling emptiness of transient entertainment and instant gratification which lies at the heart of the song’s inspiration becomes something of a self-made outcome, and that its success is also its failure: in embodying the sensation it’s intended to convey, it recreates the experience of that emptiness, that sense of hollowness and an absence of soul.

Cruel Nature Recordings – 6th November 2020

Christopher Nosnbor

The latest release from Heat Death of the Sun, aka Eugene Davies, was recorded live in Newcastle at The Cluny – a venue that provided a space for many oddball / alternative / noisy gigs and hosting many of the artists on local labels Cruel Nature and Panurus Productions – in May 2019. Yes, back when live music was a thing. There’s a semi-ironic joke to be made that people were practising social distancing at shows like this long before it became a thing, and that there’s likely less chance of catching even the most contagious of viruses at an ultra-niche gig than in your local Aldi, but the sad fact is that while it’s tough for the everyone involved in the music industry, the impact of lockdown on the micro-communities which exist through underground music is immense in mental health terms.

It may not be a fresh observation for me to note the other irony here, namely that people who are disparate, disconnected, and often prone to anxiety and low mood come together over some of the darkest, most challenging music. Often, it’s because they find it articulates their feelings in ways they can’t, and music has a near-infinite capacity to transcend words.

Listening to Drinking Oil From The Black Fountain – a single, continuous piece spanning twenty-eight minutes and documenting HDoTS set – I find myself lamenting my inability to travel to Newcastle and the fact I wasn’t present at the show. The atmospherics are deep and dark and I imagine at the appropriate volume, in a darkened room, the experience must have been immersive and fully multisensory. The range of frequencies is extensive, and winds buffet long and low against tremolo notes that seesaw and drone, intermittently interrupted by swells and glitches. Despite the distance, it holds up well as a recorded audio work.

As the piece progresses, the ruptures become more pronounced, the thudding detonations of bass more resonant, and the whole sonic web begins to tangle itself more irrevocably, twisting and knotting, with the result that what began as a softly oscillating wash transmogrifies into an unsettling, uncomfortable source of tension, and there’s still fully ten minutes to go as I ding my muscles tensing, my jaw clenching, and my stomach beginning to lurch.

Twisted folksy drones shudder in and out of the increasingly warped array of sounds as they slowly melt together before collapsing in a liquefied state as storm clouds gather and thunder rumbles ominously and culminating in a slow, looped throb to fade.

It’s a powerful, hypnotic work that evolves nicely over its course, with just enough angles and disjointed corners to render it challenging without being a total headfuck.

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16th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest offering from gothy New York duo GHXST is appropriately titled. That said, ‘gloom’ carries connotations of moping, listlessness, and the six tracks here are anything but mopey or listless: the downcast, foreboding bleakness of atmosphere is matched by a crackling tension which provides a more complex dynamic.

It begins with a dark pulsating throb and a heartbeat bass drum, distant, buried. Guitar excess howls over the top before settling to a dirge-like crawl of spindly, echo-soaked twang reminiscent of latter-day Earth with hints of Neurosis-inspired post-metal. Shelly X croons and whispers, a combination of ethereal longing and menace as shoegazey washes of sound carry her disembodied voice through the clouds towards the stratosphere.

‘Ocean is a Desert’ is still atmospheric, and combines searing country an psychedelia into the mix to create something epic and immersive Moreover, it brings a greater sense of solidity and a more obvious structure as they start getting riffy and the mechanised drums kick through the murk, and things grow denser still on ‘Vaquero’, which invites comparisons to Chelsea Wolfe and Esben and the Witch at their most sonically dynamic with its brooding drama.

Samples and strings and quivering synths pave the way for the 80s-shaded synth-goth of ‘Bad Blood II’, a chilly, steely grey song that’s both graceful and tense and calls to mind Curve at their best. Single cut ride is dark and dense, taking cues from The Jesus and Mary Chain’s ‘Mushroom’ and offering hints of A Place to Bury Strangers to deliver a deep, dark buzzing throb of mid-tempo droning guitar noise, before ‘Ride’, unveiled in advance of the release, is a gritty, grainy, mess of low-slung low-end riffage swamped in reverb and dirty distortion. And that’s the appeal of GHXST right there. Music to get lost in and to drag you down into the undertow of those dark, deep currents.

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GHXST - Gloom

Gizeh Records – GZH73 – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Because this is a Gizeh release, it’s beautifully presented, housed as it is in tri-fold card sleeve with subtle, minimal artwork. While the front cover is difficult to be certain about, the interior tryptic shows a panoramic landscape of a wide glacial valley somewhere in Britain. Observing the division of the fields draws the attention to the relationship between physical and human geography, and this all feels somehow fitting in the framing of Through the Sparkle.

And because this is a Gizeh release, the music it contains is delicate, haunting, sparse yet rich and contemplative. Through the Sparkle sees French ensemble Astrïd collaborate with American pianist and composer Rachel Grimes to spin seven contemporary classical compositions which massage the senses almost with the softest of touches.

Through the Sparkle is not an ersatz pastoral suite, but does keenly conjure a certain, if indefinable, natural spirit. The piano work is exquisite in its subtlety, rippling gently beneath tapering woodwind on ‘The Theme’, while on ‘Mossgrove & Seaweed’ notes lap evenly and lightly to create an air of lightness, of rapid yet serene movement, natural and fluid. It’s a flickering, shimmering sonic tension that shifts and changes shape over its duration,

Nothing about these pieces feels forced or intrusive. They’re the sonic evocations of dappled shade through leaves on a sultry, sunny August afternoon, a light breeze and the full spectrum of verdant hues – albeit with the shades muted by the distance of fading memory. There’s nothing about Through the Sparkle which feels overtly or calculatedly centred around a sense of nostalgia, but a sad, aching beauty – intangible but distinct – will inevitably evoke a certain wistfulness. And so it is that a degree of melancholy drapes itself around the hushed, rarefied atmosphere of the compositions on Through the Sparkle.

A sombre tone overarches the slow march of ‘The Herald en Masse’, which slowly breaks into an uplifting wash of rhythmic sound. It may not have quite the intensity of Swans, but it’s in the same sphere as it rises toward an almost transcendental sway.

Hesitant notes hover at the start of ‘M5’ and the rich, resonant and loamy tones call to mind latter-day Earth. Its sparse arrangement conjures a spacious atmosphere and pulls the listener’s attention into the details of the tone, texture, reverb and a sense of the individual notes breathing in the space around them.

‘Hollis’ brings a graceful melody that’s sad because it’s beautiful, while ‘M1’, the second-half counterpart to ‘M5’ – feels very much about the space between the notes as brief notational sequences cascade from a softly picked acoustic guitar before silence follows. There’s something almost flamenco about the picking of the strings and the way the notes resonate against one another.

The mournful tones of the final track, ‘Le Petit Salon’ are haunting in their understated discord, as piano and strings drift in different directions over percussion which fade in and out. It’s all about progression and movement.

Through the Sparkle balances shimmering, softly shining upliftingless with shifting shadows. It’s an easy yet rich listening experience which brings with it a sense of the way in which music can enrich the soul.

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