Posts Tagged ‘Atmospheric’

Kranky – 19th May 2017

James Wells

‘Atmospheric’, ‘haunting’, ‘hypnotic’… these are the first words which spring to mind while the resonant bass notes pulse long and slow beneath Irma Orm’s uniquely sedate voice, bathed in radiant reverb like a sonic halo. These words are all cliché, the everyday tools of the music writer’s trade, and in being cliché, their power has been eroded over time. But what words are there which truly convey, and do justice to, the depths of the music which comprises Nektyr?

The album’s seven tracks are expansive in every direction: textured, rich, slow in tempo, they gradually unfurl to reveal an enigmatic sonic vastness and deep emotional pull.

‘Morgon’ drifts, fugue-like, the dense cloud of sound utterly immersive and with Orm’s vocal, Jarboe’s most intoxicating work comes to mind by way of a touchstone. Woozy synth tones lurch and sway over a stuttering heartbeat of a drum in the fade of ‘Korridorer’.

This is deep material that reaches into the soul on an almost subliminal level: to dissect its power to the point at which it can be readily conveyed n words would be to diminish that power. This is music which communicates on another level, one which transcends language and as such, renders any critical appraisal in mere words not only challenging, but essentially obsolete. This is music you feel, intuitively, instinctively, and in your core. It’s a spiritual, if not a religious experience. Indescribably moving on a level far below the conscious, it really is quite an album.

 

KRANK209_10x10_300dpi

Advertisements

3rd February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

As a band who really grabbed me by the throat with the release of their ‘Nowhere’ EP in 2015, the arrival of the latest offering from GHXST in my inbox was cause for excitement. And rightly so. To cut to the chase, Perish is a masterpiece.

The EP’s first track, ‘Southern Eye’, carries the refrain of ‘nowhere’ and as such, continues the theme of displacement, of outsiderdom, of not belonging which was core to the aforementioned EP. It’s a fair summary of what GHXST are about, musically, conceptually, and lyrically. Their songs deal with darker themes, and the cover art, which seems to evoke the spirit of Joy Division conveys an appropriate sense of bleakness, but also a certain, ineffable serenity and grace.

On the title track, a rushing guitar grind and reverberating samples are counterpointed by a haunting – and achingly beautiful – vocal that has hints of Alison Shaw of Cranes, only less squeaky, and Toni Halliday. The contrast is what defines the sound, and is ultimately what makes GHXST so special: it’s so rare for a band this heavy to convey so much emotional sensitivity. Theirs is not a sonic expression of nihilistic rage, but of something altogether more nuanced, possessing a heart-trembling beauty, rendered all the more distinct in their execution by the use of a drum machine. As such, they’re in an entirely different league from the few doomgaze contemporaries with female vocals one might name, like Esben and the Witch and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. And on this outing they expand their sound to incorporate elements of blues and country. How does that sit as a genre? But it’s not merely the fact they exist within their own niche: the tracks on Perish: the quality of the songs, and their spectacularly atmospheric execution is something special.

‘Stories We Tell’ achieves a heart-rending beauty while crushing your skull with punishing guitars and pounding, slow-tempo percussion: the guitars grate and grind, each power chord throbbing with a malevolent afterburn. ‘Summer Moon’ presents a surging pop dynamic, a dash of Jesus and May Chain against a Chapterhouse-y whirl of shoegaziness and ‘Waiting for the Night’ is a slow-surging dirge, riven with the crackling pops of Akai snare bursts which shouldn’t work but actually bring a bleak aggression to the droning. Closer ‘No Wild West’ introduces a droning desert blues element, the chugging guitars drifting over an expansive, barren wasteland as Shelley X drawls into a sea of reverb.

This is by no means inaccessible music: it’s music to lose yourself in. The songs themselves are comparatively short – none extend beyond the five-minute mark – but all bear all the hallmarks of true epics, with a sound which is beyond vast.

 

 

 

 

GHXST - Perish

kranky – 17th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s pitched as a ‘compelling synthesis of shadowy rhythms and opaque atmospherics, drawing on the most potent qualities of melancholic ambient and dub techno’. An Act of Love is very much an album which possesses a haunting atmosphere, with a supple, soft, subaquatic sound dragging the listener into a warm, hushed place of dark stillness where movement is slowed.

The album’s first track, ‘The Present Mist’, sets the tone, and its title is an appropriate summary of the vague, amorphous drifting soundscapes which encapsulate the overall feel of a set the fabric of which is woven from intangibles.

‘About that Time’ builds a hypnotic groove with an overtly dance-orientated beat – that is to say, an insistent bass drum in square four-four time at around 120bpm – while soft waves of sound drift like mist to form obfuscating layers which envelop the senses. A piano rings out into the warm aural webbing and hangs in the air. But the drums rattle and reverberate, echoing across one another: it’s not nearly as ambient or understated as may first appear. And so, while the album does often drift, making minimal demands on concentration, it is not without dynamic or the capacity to withstand a degree of attentiveness. It’s well-constructed and has a flow about it which works well. That flow creates, magically, a certain temporal suspension as time evaporates like vapour over the distance of successive tracks.

Jittering beats, like a palpitating heart, thump through ‘Exuberant Burning’. This is no up-front dance work, but nevertheless, there is a tension, and an excitement which emanates from its dark, cellular landscape. The flickering, pulsing beats muffled and bear a certain resemblance to sounds heard through a stethoscope.

An Act of Love is an album which slowly, subtly, almost subliminally, evolves and unfurls.

 

KRANK208_5x5_300dpi

Hubro – HUBROCD2576 – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

So sad, so haunting. The sliding notes, gently picked, cascade and ripple through the still air, reverb coating them in a vaporous mist. Somewhere between classical and country, the title track opens the album in a quietly moving style: pedal steel, banjo and musical saw all combine to create an air of melancholy, evocative of dappled light, and touched at the edges with a vague nostalgia. A slow, sedate swell gradually builds, a looping motif channelling a lilting, mesmeric melody. Lonesome country vibes drift across the desertscape of ‘Gråtarslaget, but it’s tinged with a hint of eastern mysticism. It’s an intriguing juxtaposition. Rolling piano and slow marching drums drift through the slowcore country meandering of ‘Florianer’, which in turn trickles down into the woozy warp of ‘Røk’.

The sparse arrangements and slowly unfurling motifs make for music – or, in places, something so background as to be an approximation of muzak – which is paired down, stripped back, presenting pieces which are less compositions and more emblematic of the essence of slowcore country. It’s not often that I would suggest songs would benefit from vocals, but these instrumental works do carry a weighted note of absence.

 

 

Geir Sundstol

Frozen Light – FZL 041

James Wells

There’s something mildly irksome about the phrase ‘tickling the ivories’. It’s perhaps a strange personal quirk, but perhaps it’s the louche thespy associations of the phrase which are so bothersome. There’s also the fact that the phrase really fails to convey what’s truly involved in the act of playing the piano. Well, that’s usually the case. But much of the music on Sanctuary sounds very much like the tickling of ivories. Often quiet, delicate, light, tentative and experimental piano notes flit here and there, forming irregular patterns in the air. There are passages of haunting melody, with wavering drones quivering tremulously. There are also scraping strings, trilling woodwind and stomping elephantine rhythms passing through the protracted periods of hush. But first and foremost, it’s about the ivories, and there’s nothing remotely irksome about it.

 

James Batty - Overtones