Posts Tagged ‘Evocative’

26th January 2022

Christopheer Nosnibor

Elkyn first came to my attention – and, quite frankly, blew me away instantaneously – in his previous iteration as elk, in the spring of 2019, an appreciation that was cemented with the release of the ‘beech’ EP that summer. Since then, Leeds based multi-instrumentalist Joey Donnelly has become elkyn and gone on to craft not only more remarkable songs, but also something of a rarefied space artistically.

In many respects, there’s very little of Joey out in the public domain: press shots tend to be similar in style, and unassuming, and interviews, while interesting in themselves, and while he comes across well, reveal little about the man behind the music. In contrast, his songs are so intensely personal that there’s likely little need to elucidate further: the songs really do speak for him.

Those songs have already earned him airplay on BBC 6Music, BBC Introducing and Radio X, and deservedly so, and now, with a debut album, holy spirit social club, due for release in the spring, elkyn is sharing ‘talon’ as a taster.

Fuller in sound and more up-tempo than previous singles ‘something’ and ‘everything looks darker now’, it’s more akin to ‘found the back of the tv remote’, which found him flexing new muscles and venturing into Twilight Sad kitchen-sink melancholia.

It’s a(nother) magnificently-crafted tune, and it’s clear by now that Joey has a real knack for bittersweetness. The guitar is melodic and imbued with a wistfulness that’s hard to define. There’s a Curesque lilt to it, in the way that when the Cure do pop, it’s somehow sadder and more emotionally touching than then they do gloomy – or is that just me who experiences that sensation where a certain shade of happy just makes me want to cry inexplicably? But more than anything, when Donnelly’s voice enters the mix, I’m reminded of Dinosaur Jr. Joey’s a better singer than J Mascis, but his voice has that same plaintive quality that tugs away and evokes that emotional hinterland between gloom, resignation, and hope.

Donnelly deals in self-doubt, self-criticism and articulations of inadequacy, and this is why his songs are so affecting and relatable. But it’s the hope that shines through on ‘talon’ – thin rays of sun through the closed curtains of despair perhaps, but with a tune this breezy it’s hard to feel anything other than uplifted by the end.

Live dates:

18/03/22 Hyde Park Book Club Leeds

19/03/22 Fulford Arms York

20/03/22 The Castle Manchester

24/03/22 Scale Liverpool

25/03/22 JT Soar Nottingham

26/03/22 The Flapper Birmingham

27/03/22 Duffy’s Leicester

29/03/22 Strongrooms London

30/03/22 Folklore Rooms Brighton

01/04/22 Clifton Community Bookshop

02/04/22 Tiny Rebel Cardiff

Elkyn_@StewartBaxter-98

Pic: Stewart Baxter

Opa Loka Records – OL2004

Christopher Nosnibor

Just over two years on from The Forcing Season: Further Acts of Severance, and Michael Page delivers another instalment of Sky Burial music.

According to the accompanying text, ‘Stations of the Sun was composed in the spring of 2020 after returning from travels through Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa’, and ‘the five tracks form a ritual soundtrack to a journey which became an inadvertent pilgrimage to view the rising and setting sun from ancient sites of historical significance’.

As is often the case with ambient works, while intended to be evocative, its evocations remain secret, hidden from the listener and locked inside the creator’s mind and separated by process. The sense of journey, the sense of location, isn’t particularly apparent here, and as is so common, to the genre where there’s a concept and an inspiration deriving from some specific experience or place, that sense of place, space, and inspiration is largely lost in vague mists. That said, there are some rich textures and nice tones here, and while the idea of ‘journey’ may not be readily conveyed, there is a definite trajectory and evolution across the album’s five tracks.

The expansive opener drifts and washes broad strokes, with little detail, but over its sixteen-minute duration becomes increasingly calm and soothing. As you let it wash over you, you become more attuned not to the location in Michael Page’s mind, but your own immediate surroundings. As ever, I’m in a small, tunnel-like rectilinear room, but at the same time, I am drifting beyond it in my mind due to the transportative effects of music on the mind.

‘Stations of the Sun 2’ is sparse, fleeting notes that glide in and out through tweets and trills of sounds that imitate birdsong without being actual birdsong, as n erratically-pulsing beat throbs and glitches at its heart, like a muted Kraftwerk, or an ultra-muted take on Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Discipline’. As the album progresses, distant samples and incidental interventions creep in, changing the tone, and the rhythms become more pronounced and the atmosphere grows darker, although by ‘Stations of the Sun 5’ – a sixteen-minute megalith to bookend the album with a counterpart to the opener, the beats have evaporated, replaced by random, clanks and scrapes that echo dolorously through eternal caverns of gloom. Whirs, bleeps and whooshes like shooting stars occasionally flicker and flash through the dense, dark space.

And so it ends more or less as it begins, and we find ourselves, having been led onwards and through a succession of sonic spaces, that the terminus resembles – at least in memory – the origin. So where have we been? For each of us, the answer will be different. From the comfort of our own spaces, Stations of the Sun leads the listener on a journey of the mind.

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OL2004_front

Kranky – 6th April 2018

It was Alexander Trocchi, often referred to as the ‘Scottish Beat’ with whom the phrase ‘cosmonaut of inner space’ who seemingly has the strongest connection, largely on account of the fact that this was how he often referred to himself. However, it was in fact coined by William Burroughs, who said, “in my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas, a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed”.

This is pertinent, as the press release which accompanies the functionally-titled No. 4 – Belgium-based composer Christina Vantzou’s fourth full-length for Kranky – explains how her latest work ‘ventures further into the uniquely elusive and evocative mode of ambient classical minimalism which has become her signature: a fragile synthesis of contemplative drift, heady silences, and muted dissonance. In regards to the new album she speaks of focusing particular attention on the effects of the recordings on the body, and of “directing sound perception into an inner space.”’

More often than not, I will dismiss the contents of any accompanying verbiage in order to engage with the music unswayed by sales pitch or theoretical position. However, there was something about the context of this album which resonated, and – not wholly intentionally, I should stress – informed my listening and analysis. One may assume that ambient music is ambient music. But no: there are those vast, swirling, cinematic ambient works which explore immense spatiality; there are those works which gather and collage sounds specific to a given time or place, or both, and which are concerned in some way with location, be it geographical or temporal; and then there are those inward-looking explorations which filer through the libraries of the mind and memory. This very much sits in the latter category, with Vantzou’s sparse, minimal compositions possessing deeply haunting qualities, with the notes echoing into the deeper recesses of recollection.

The titles ascribed to the eleven compositions which comprise No.4 are all vague yet strangely evocative. ‘Doorway’; ‘Staircases’; ‘Some Limited and Waning Memory’… so non-specific, and precisely for this reason, so resonant. Within the personal lies the universal and between the spaces between the softly echoed piano notes, the subtle, drifting strings, the soft washes of sound that drift like vapour and gradually dissipate into the air.

Tranquillity descends. Under Vantzou’s aural guidance, I find myself reflecting on my own inner space and conjure images and recollections of experiences linked – however tangentially – to those spaces named in the titles. A bulbous bass pulsates on ‘Garden of Forking |Paths’ and I’m transported back to my father’s long, sprawling garden – and because the bass sound is reminiscent of The Cure circa Faith – specifically Carnage Visors – I’m back to when I discovered this music, age fourteen or fifteen. I visualise dappled orchard sunlight and smell grass clipping. This will mean nothing to you, but by allowing myself to drift inside, I’m feeling that interiority that Vantzou’s work intimates.

In times past, I may have felt embarrassment as taking such a tangential approach to a review. But music – and the response it elicits – is not scientific. To analyse this objectively would be futile, and worse still to strip the soul from its very heart. No.4 isn’t an album to listen to, so much as to feel.

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Christina Vantzou – No.4