Posts Tagged ‘David Toop’

Room40 – 11th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I struggle to keep up with the influx of material I’m sent for review, and have done for at least the last 8 years, which may or may not be coincidental with a) becoming a parent b) rapidly developing a massive network or PR and band contacts. It turns out that there comes a point when you don’t need to ask to be added to mailing lists, and people just find you. Anyway. Sometimes I just struggle, but that’s a whole other matter.

Apparition Paintings is a collection of oddly disjointed compositions that alternately soothe and trip the listener, moving between mellow melodies and rippling calmness – ‘All I Desire’ is a slow melt of chillwave, electronic post-rock and Disintegration-era Cure – and eerie weirdness – ‘When I first came here (I thought I’d never get used to the trains; now when it’s quiet I get nervous)’ is part chamber-pop, part deranged spookiness. None of this sits comfortably, in any context, and the deeper one delves into the eerie collage work that is Apparition Paintings, the more unsettling it becomes.

Toop’s notes which accompany the release are as disjointed and confounding as the music they accompany: ‘Don’t ask me about genre or consistency. Who cares? Half the world is drowning; the other half is in flames. Each story is an animal, a plant, something you drink, a surface you touch, a faint line, some memory emanating from a cardboard box. “’Things’ in themselves are only events that for a while are monotonous,” wrote Carlo Rovelli in The Order of Time. Maybe sounds are melting ‘things’, tired of the monotonous real.’

Yet on a certain level it makes sense. In a post-Covid world. The monotonous real is the lived experience of the everyday for many – not that it wasn’t before, but now, without the commute, without being in proximity to the volatile colleague, the explosive tension or the whatever, the monotonous real is confined to the household and to within the head. It may not be immediately apparent, but Apparition Paintings is a sort of inside soundtrack of the now, with extraneous and unexpected noises pinging back and firth across the main sonic backdrops to each piece.

‘She fell asleep somewhere outside the world’ finds a disembodied female voice singing a quavering melody, hesitantly. It’s a popular trope, but the deranged, childlike singing against a spooky backdrop is an effective trigger for cognitive dissonance. Apparition Paintings is an album that very much speaks to the sounds of the interior.

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Someone Good – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

David Toop enthuses over Haco as ‘weightless, not so much a voice from heaven but a voice that swirls in liquidity, water spirit…’ In this, he probably gets as close to capturing the essence of Haco’s music as its possible. It’s a challenge for any writer when presented with sonic abstraction: how to render the intangible tangible, and at the same time convey the experience of sound in words?

The music on Qoosui is not easy – and in fact almost impossible – to pin down. An analogy to catching a cloud is close, but not right: the seven pieces exist in a state somewhere between liquid and vapour, and flow in multiple directions seemingly simultaneously. Rippling synths slowly bubble as wash aquatically on ‘Kusul’, and paves the way for a sequence of amorphous, drifting compositions which drift and tether. Crystalline shards cut through cloud-like washes on ‘White Letter from Heaven’, and Haco’s voice is seemingly not of the human body, transcendental, and not of this world.

This is, in many respects, the source and heart of Qoosui: inspired by spirit voices, Haco becomes one. The medium is the message on every level.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/224449651

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ROOM40 – RM475

Christopher Nosnibor

If the album’s cumbersome title sounds like a collection of abstractions thrown together by the same random title generator that The Fall use, then the enormously protracted song titles take the form of semi-abstract narratives which evoke mysterious, shadowy scenes.

Many of the tracks are shorter than their titles, and while the soundworks consist largely of rumbles, scrapes, thuds and electrostatic crackles which are essentially abstract, they do develop some kind of implicit meaning when played in context of the titles. The extent to which this is intentional is unclear: Toop explains the album’s development as being born out of ‘three periods of solitude’ and a conversation with composer and ROOM40 label owner Lawrence English which spurred him to reassess his perspective on releasing music in the 21st century.

Gathering sounds drawn from myriad and disparate sources which lay as ‘spores or maybe dormant clusters of digital files’, Toop has created a work which captures and conveys a sense of the ephemerality of all things. Sights, sounds, experiences, spaces, are each experienced by an individual in but a momentary way. Collectively, all the fragments of experience, however minor and seemingly insignificant, form the life lived; in short, life is one vast intertext, and it’s from this array of ‘things’ Entities Inertias Faint Beings is formed. And so one is pushed to contemplate not simply the sounds or words themselves, but their relationships to those in which they coexist, and to consider their contexts.

‘Dry keys echo in the dark and humid early hours’ is in fact a phrase lifted from Clarice Lispector’s Aqua Viva, and Toop references various other texts (Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects and Stephen Mansfield’s book on Japanese stone gardens). Toop also makes mention of a ‘hypnagogic image of ‘a transparent swimming pool suspended over the mouth of a volcano.’

As such, Entities represents a gathering of sources, a cut-up collage of sorts, gathering sound, image, memory, thoughts and ideas together in a melange of drones, thuds, whistles, hums and a miscellany of abstract sounds. There are moments of melody and rhythm, some of which are charming and delicate, but thy fade out and vanish as quickly as they emerge. When a scratchy picked guitar and conventional instrumentation emerges on ‘Compelled to approach’, it sounds almost alien in context. The mournful strings on ‘Ancestral beings, sightless by their own dust’ are draped over soft chimes and the sampled speech on ‘Human skin and stone steps’, overlaid with a solitary woodwind and low gong, takes on a hypnotic tone.

The album ultimately tapers to silence, leaving the listener to ponder and reflect.

 

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