Posts Tagged ‘Hallow Ground’

Hallow Ground – September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Hallow Ground is one of those niche little labels that exceeds in catering to a small but devoted audience. The quality is pretty consistent, and while you know broadly what you’re going to get from anything in their catalogue, there’s nevertheless a sense of challenge with each release. And so it is with The Expanding Domain, which is pitched as showcasing the way in which the producer’s ‘fascination with ambient becomes a blank slate upon which [he] and his collaborators serve shimmering Trance-derived melodies, murky Industrial grooves and all-consuming Harsh Noise attacks.’

If it sounds like a difficult and disparate blend, it is, making for 23 intense minutes, but it works. ‘Cold Bloom’ may be brief, but moves through a succession of quite contrasting passages, from ominous ambient rumbles and analogue tweets through expansive orchestral strikes lifted straight out of 90s clubland. As such, it condenses all aspects of the album into under two and a half mind-punishing minutes.

On the one hand, it seems like a bad idea and waste of energy to become overly concerned with genre definitions and intersections. On the other, The Expanding Domain seemingly less invites and more demands that type of scrutiny.

‘Lil Puffy Coat’ – which I’m taking as a playful reference to The Orb’s ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ amalgamates dislocated Krautronica with shades of abstract industrial to forge a sinister expanse of liquid concrete: grey, heavy, but tactile, its form transitional, not yet set firm, and therefore difficult to define.

The volume and aggression are ratcheted up on the heavily percussive attack that is ‘Fear in Reverse II’, the pounding barrage of metallic hammering reminiscent of Test Department providing the perfectly painful foil to the howling discord that screeches above it.

The title track is definitive: with Dominick Fernow (aka Prurient) and Death Grips drummer Zack Hill contributing additional percussion and Dirch Heather bringing the modular synths, it’s a perfect hybrid of delicate, semi-ambient electronica, gnarly, dark ambient that broods and churns, and throbbing industrial. The result is immersive and unsettling, an album somehow at ease with its incongruity which is melded into a perversely cogent form.

Dedekind Cut – The Expanding Domain

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Hallow Ground – HG1703 – June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

TAR is the fourth solo album by Tehran-based composer Siavash Amini, although he’s joined by Pouya Pour-Amin on electric double bass and Nima Aghiani on violin. Not that the individual instruments are readily recognisable in the thick sonic swirls which combine to forge the ever-shifting soundscapes of TAR at least in the main. But when Aghiani’s violin weeps and bleeds emotive from amidst the amorphous aural clouds which turn and taper, billowing and rolling, throbbing and pulsating.

‘A Dream’s Frozen Reflection’ begins droney but gentle, but inside the first two minutes breaks into a serrated sonic tempest. Music that sounds for all the world like a circular saw accompanied by a saw played more conventionally (does anyone play the saw any more? Or has it more or less gone the way of the comb and the washboard?) isn’t an easy sell, but Amini creates an intense aural experience that immerses the senses. But for all the harsh tones, there are contrasts in abundance, and through forging a shifting soundscape, the atmosphere changes, sometimes almost subliminally over the course of the piece.

‘Rivers of Tar’ plunges into murky, dark territory, but crystalline glissandos cascade through the eddying clouds of sulphur, while graceful strings rise and sweep expansively. It’s hard to determine whether or not it really carries an emotional resonance, but as a listening experience, it’s got more than enough range and features some passages which do have that vital drag.

At times, ‘The Dust We Breathe’ is barely there, delicate contrails of soft ambience washing in and out. There are periods dominated high-volume undulations of grating, snarling noise early on, but over the course of its fourteen-minute duration, the track drifts quietly and softly into the background.

It’s Amini’s ability to manoeuvre, effortlessly and almost untraceably, the trajectory of the four compositions from head-crushing abrasion to lulling calmness which is the greatest achievement of TAR. It’s an ambient album which carries a sting in the tail sharp enough to hurt, while equally massaging the mental receptors with its delicate tones.

The extent to which TAR translates Amini’s desire to explore ‘the fragile tensions between and individual and collective subconscious’ is largely irrelevant: TAR is an unexpectedly dynamic work, brimming with texture and contrast.

Siavash Amini – TAR

Hallow Ground – HG1606 – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Reiner Van Houdt presents an interesting proposition: a classically-trained pianist who’s worked with John Cage and Luc Ferrari, he also plays in Current 93 and has worked in collaboration with Nick Cave, John Zorn and Antony Hegarty. The fact this release is on the Hallow Ground label should perhaps give an indication that this is no soft neoclassical effort – although I’m in no way criticising neoclassical music here: I’m simply saying that this dos not sit within the field, and is harder, harsher, heavier, at least in places. There are no neat melodic structures to be found on Paths of the Errant Gaze, and no instrumentation which sits within the classical bracket: this is very much an electronic album.

On the face of it, there isn’t much to this. Paths of the Errant Gaze is an album which is extremely quiet, sparse, minimal, and the detail – and the quantity of source material involved in its creation – are not immediately apparent. Just as Burroughs and Gysin theorised on the power of ‘The Third Mind’ through the act of collaboration, so Van Houdt believes the act of recording creates a ‘third ear’. And so it is that Van Houdt built Paths of the Errant Gaze from myriad recordings gathered from a near-infinite array of locations.

‘The Fabric of Loss’ creeps ominously, scraping strings like creaking doors echo in the still air as dust motes descend silently, ‘Orphic Asylum’ introduces the first semblance of rhythms, murky, clanking, developing to extended bursts of bass-end noise and a thumping, trudging beat which plots treacherously through an unnervingly dark sonic labyrinth. Even when near-silence encroaches, there remains a dark, oppressive atmosphere in the air. Sparse piano notes and a Scott Walker-esque vocal emerge briefly from the dense sonic fog on TR 5, but neither does much to orientate or ground the listener.

There is no indication of the sounds captured by Van Houdt being your common or garden field recordings – in fact, the ‘everyday objects, situations and moments’ which Van Houdt records obsessively are all but lost amidst the process of forming a sonic melange. Nor does Van Houdt utilise these soundpieces in a conventional way: one does not get a sense of Paths of the Errant Gaze existing as a collage work. Paths of the Errant Gaze is not a work which is encumbered by a sense of pretence, and nor does its theoretical or conceptual framework impinge unduly on the end product.

The ten-minute ‘Transfinite Spectre’ is an all-out sonic assault worthy of Merzbow, as laser-guided blasts crackle and fizz, top-end treble drilling directly into the brain through the ear to create maximum discomfort.

 

Reinier Van Houdt - Paths of the Errant Gaze