Posts Tagged ‘Gizeh Records’

Gizeh Records – GZH68 – 2nd September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Richard Knox’s musical career is marked by works which are ponderous and atmospheric. Howeevr, his latest venture in colaboration with Claire Brentnall, is distinguished by a leaning toward material which feels more focused, compositionally, and more direct. It’s all relative, of course, and Mirror Breathing is, as the title implies, a work which is hazy, misty, the songs grasping, just for a second, at the ephemeral and reflecting the moments back, refracted and rarefied. Following on from debut album Contour Lines (2014) and 2015’s Violet EP, Mirror Breathing marks a step further into dark pop territory, although dark is indeed the operative word here, and it’s clear that in Brentnall he’s found the perfect collaborator: a person with not only an amazing voice, but an equal understanding of what it takes to forge ponderous, nuanced, atmospheric music. It’s not a matter of drawing out which each brings to each composition: Shield Patterns are built on collaboration and intuition, more of a case of a creative space emerging from a collective ‘third mind’ than the simple coming together to two musicians. 

The musical backing the pair create is atmospheric, and captures elements of light and shade which contrast magnificently; dark, rumbling low-end and industrial scrapes are tempered by ethereal ambient sounds of indeterminate origin. Claire Brentnall’s breathy vocal hangs, spine-shiveringly, over the drifting soundscape. The whole production is draped in a soft-focus feel, a mist which partially obscures the shapes and forms and renders them vague, unfamiliar and ambiguous. This ambiguity and unfamiliarity is an unsettling sensation, and while the graceful vocals superficially soothe, the emotional tension and overall sonic disquiet ultimately leave the listener pulled in different directions, peering into the shadows and wondering what lies just out of view. Arrhythmic percussion echoes in the dark, detonations which send shuddering vibrations through the ground. There’s a stark beauty to ‘This Temporary Place’ that calls to mind Zola Jesus, and elsewhere, dark industrial grumbling tremors contrast with the dreamy, otherworldly atmosphere of ‘Cerulean’.

Julia Kent is an artist who has a tendency to crop up in all sorts of places and with remarkable frequency: a respected solo artist in her own right, she is also a one-time member of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, as well as performing as a member of Rasputina and Anthony and the Johnson, he cello work on three of the tracks here adds further texture to the arrangements. Ultimately, though, it’s the balance of the instrumentation which really makes the album work: there’s a lot going on, with many incidental sounds blended in, but it’s seamless and no one aspect or sound dominates at any point.

Again returning to the connotations of the title, if the image of a steamed mirror can be read as a twist on the ‘smoke and mirrors’ metaphor, then there is an element of deception in the way the compositions seem sparse, but are in fact constructed from manifold layers which form strata of remarkable sonic depth and density. The drums may be distant-sounding and low in the mix, but they roll like thunder. In Claire’s vocals, you don’t hear every word, but you feel them. Sometimes she soars so high as to be barely audible to the human ear. Sometimes, it’s less about the actual lyrical content than the delivery, and her voice as of and in itself conveys more than mere words ever could. There’s a quality in Claire Brentnall’s voice which communicates on a subconscious, subliminal level. Her voice echoes in the recesses between the beats, drifts along, enveloped in the gauze-like textures, and occupies invisible spaces between the notes. Hers is a voice which is delicate, but by no means weak; yet the strength of her delivery lies in her ability to convey vulnerability.

From the alluring ‘Dusk’ to the dolorous chimes of ‘Blue Shutters’ and the sinister depths of ‘Balance & Scatter’ with its dark jazz intimations, via the tranquil and sedate(d)‘Sleepdrunk’, the songs conjure scenes of both anguish and ecstasy and often explore the pull of existing in both states simultaneously. Haunting, hypnotic and disquieting, Mirror Breathing is an impressive work that warrants time for thought and reflection.

Shield Patterns - Mirror Breathing

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Gizeh Records -GZH66 – 20th May 2016

Christopher Nosnbor

On her first album since 2009, Christine Ott presents eight pieces which touch on a range of moods and emotional states. While the piano is the central instrument, the multi-instrumentalist calls on a host of additional players to incorporate strings, drums and harpsichord to create a suite of music that’s beautifully detailed. In some respects, Only Silence Remains resides in the neoclassical bracket, but equally, there are elements of post-rock and avant-garde here, and ultimately, it boils down to being music. Exquisite music, at that.

Indeed, what’s perhaps most striking about Only Silence Remains is just how subtle yet simultaneously deep it is. That most probably sounds like a contradiction, but in a time when so much music is very much geared toward instant gratification, the hook, the immediate grab, and even orchestral works are so often centred around a certain hook, whether or not associated with a major film – and more often than not, they are associated with a major film, earning endless airplay on Classic FM – Only Silence Remains is an album which requires time and contemplation.

Only Silence Remains is certainly of a standard that would sit comfortably on any film soundtrack, but in many ways, it’s above that kind of mass-market reduction of anything that’s vaguely classical in its form to ‘soundtrack’. Only Silence Remains is a magnificently singular work, and is also, in its own right, simply a magnificent work.

‘Raintrain’ moves from a sad, lone accordion to a woozy, strolling jazz-informed double bass via a delicately dropping piano. From mournful shanties to pastoral hues, Ott evokes life, in all of its colours, expressing ups and downs and myriad in-betweens.

The nine-minute ‘Tempête’ begins dark and haunting, before a chorus of, inhuman strings rise, shrieking against scribbling insect walls of sound, plunging into unseen depths down, down, into the bleak ‘Disaster’. Featuring a narration performed by Casey Brown in a cracked monotone, until finally, a lone piano drifts into silence.

Skipping lightly from twinkling wonderment to brooding drama, she demonstrates a musical intuition that’s truly exceptional. To describe or define the ways in which the music reaches in and touch the listener’s soul is nigh on impossible: it simply does.

 

 

Christine Ott

Only Silence Remains at Gizeh Records Online

Gizeh Records – GZH67 – 1st April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Last Harbour aren’t exactly renowned for their prolific output. They may have released six albums, but it’s taken the best part of 17 years, and the gap between the last two albums was a full four years. So, for Paler Cities to follow less than a year after their last long player, the immense Caul, feels like a real step-up in terms of momentum. The 7” single is accompanied by a brace of digital-only tracks, and the quality of the material is both consistent and superlative.

They’ve struck a rich seam of gloomy post-punk folk music, and ‘Paler Cities’ indicates a further evolution, showcasing a new-found stripped back approach to the compositions. A tense, chorus-heavy guitar provides a suitably stark backdrop to K Craig’s intonations of mournful longing delivered in his signature cavernous baritone.

Flipside ‘The Curved Road’ is a brooding, introspective effort which goes deep inside while evoking dark late-night imagery and conjuring psychological drama. The stealthy, almost subterranean, wandering bassline really makes it.

The digital tracks are of an equal calibre: ‘A Better Man’ is beautifully lugubrious and understated, dripping with minor-key violin, and with its chiming guitars and sad-sounding string arrangements, the darkly dreamy ‘Witness’, with its sweeping vistas, displays post-rock tendencies (or, more specifically, it echoes I Like Trains at their most melancholy).

There’s an overarching theatricality to the four tracks on offer here, and while they’re downtempo and downbeat, the aching beauty that lies in their shadowy depths is utterly compelling.

 

Last Harbour - Paler

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/244857832&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true

Last Harbour Online

Gizeh Records – GZH65DP – 18th March 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Gizeh is a label which grasps the importance of the complete music experience, and never stint on their packaging. Anyone purchasing their product can feel a tangible sense of both art and artefact, and Anders Brørby’s brooding instrumental album Nihil, the second release in their ‘Dark Peaks’ series, is no exception, housed as it is in a textured gatefold sleeve, the radiating sunburst design raised from the surface, in heavy black ink on a matt black background. How much more black could it be? The answer is none. None more black (the white paper band printed with the artist’s name and album title which much be carefully slid from around the sleeve in order to access the contents notwithstanding).

The presentation provides a suitable indication as to the sonic experience it prefaces. Nihil meaning nothing: while it has, since the 19th Century come to connote a negativity, manifesting as antagonism or rejection through the widespread use of ‘nihilism’, as of and in itself, ‘nihil’, or ‘nothing’ implies an absence. Neither positive or negative, it is simply a lack. Absolute nothing is beyond the human ken, and so, in artistic terms, there is a need to portray nothing, absence, with something. This is something Norwegian composer sound artist Brørby achieves on the 10 pieces which comprise Nihil.

Primarily, the music is dark. There is a lack, an absence, of light, at least in terms of the overall sensation it conveys. Melding elements of drone and dark ambient with more abrasive sounds, the compositions infer an experimental bent which places atmosphere at the fore. The structures are almost subliminal, the shapes of the pieces largely evolve and emerge briefly through a succession of transitions as layers of sound overlap and drift across one another almost imperceptibly. Musical forms are therefore explicitly absent, expounding the concept of ‘nihil’. As such, Nihil is a work of subtlety, and a work which bears theoretical scrutiny, and sits alongside works by the likes of Christian Fennesz, Lawrence English and Tim Hecker.

But subtlety should not be read as a synonym for sedate or tranquil. ‘As Dead as the Stars We Watched at Night’ builds layers of dark noise and swelling drones scrape and torment the nerves, and while the gentle, chimes which ripple in cadence through ‘I Will Always Disappoint You’ offer a glimmer of light and warmth, ‘Put Your Ear to the Ground’ finds a harsh, thick distorted fuzz that obliterates the smooths contrails beneath and accentuates the unrest on which Nihil is constructed. Likewise, the serrated howl of ‘From the Window Above the Lake’ conveys the anguish of emptiness.

Through the medium of sound, Brørby creates a conceptual absence (not to be confused with an absence of concept). There is no message, and Brørby does not purport to convey anything through the work beyond ‘raw atmospheres’. ‘Raw’ implies unfiltered, unadulterated, without manipulation nor refinement, and while this may not be strictly true of Anders Brørby’s creative process, Nihil nevertheless presents itself as being self-contained, a work about absence of anything but the sounds it contains. It is not ‘about’ Anders Brørby, and if anything, the artist is, if not completely absent, then very much hiding in the shadows.

It’s an album that’s best appreciated in a semi-present state, to allow the sounds to slowly wash over the senses and most of all, to be heard without preconceptions or expectations. Because nothing can often leave you with so much more than something.

Anders Brorby - Nihil

 

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=4022471447/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/transparent=true/

 

Anders Brørby Bandcamp