Posts Tagged ‘Houndstooth Records’

Houndstooth Records – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Transmogrifications’ features a brace of compositions by Guy Andrews reworked, reimagined, decomposed – spin it whichever way – by seminal experimental musician Kevin Drumm, with one from Permanence (which was released in September) and another from his latest, [MT][NT][ET]. Back in the day, this would have been a 12” single, or a CD single / EP. Now, it’s simply a release. Part of me feels that the devolvement – and dissolvement – of the physical format is sad not because of plain nostalgia, but because of the way it’s altered our relationship with music. The release of new music, when it required actually going into town to purchase it, arriving home with a sense of excitement and anticipation to hear something that had required not only the effort of the journey, but the outlay of actual cash, meant that there was an element of deliberation involved in each purchase: you’ve got a tenner (and there was a time not SO long ago when that would likely get you three new 12” singles at £2.99 – £3.50 apiece), and dropping the needle on each was an actual event. The loss of that sense of occasion, that event, is significant, and one that struck me unexpectedly on hearing this. As excited as I was to hear it, the joy was tempered by a certain pang of loss.

Drumm explains the remit he was given, which directed his approach to the project, recounting that “Guy essentially said that he’d rather not hear his own music played back to him…So with that in mind, it freed me up to drastically transform his material…it was a good experience taking something that is quite different than what I usually get up to and turn it into something different than what it is in its original form.” And the title says it all, really: ‘transmogrification’ is defined as the process of complete and usually extreme or grotesque change from one state or form to another.

Each track is an entire album, compressed, condensed, and generally reworked and altered beyond recognition.

And so it is that ‘[MT][NT][ET]’ is seven-and-three-quarter minutes of deep, swirling ambience, a deep mass of sound that eddies and drifts with a drilling metallic edge giving it a slightly uncomfortable sharpness. While it’s a more or less even drone, there are occasional – subtle – dips and twists that add to the understated but quite definite tension. And yet for all that, there is an overall sense of calm, a smoothness, until near the end, when its rich, space-like tranquillity is devasted by a rising blast of extraneous noise.

‘Permanence’ offers a different kind of experience, it’s more deeply textured, and a slower, lower simmering fermentation of sound. It also boils the thirty-two minute album down to eight minutes of overlapping sonic layers. Glistering shards of feedback are worn smooth in a soft wash of pink noise and an undulating amorphous cloud of noise, beneath which a grating sonic wreckage churns at such distance as to be almost subliminal.

And then it stops. Just like that. The abrupt nature of the ending is of note, accentuating the silence that follows immediately, and giving a tangible pause for thought on a release that has a lot more depth than the surface first suggests.

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Houndstooth -15th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

And We Are Passing Through Silently is pitched as ‘a collection of songs reworked by Abul Mogard between 2015 – 2018’, with the press blurb describing it as ‘the sublime first survey of reworks by [the] cult synthesist’. It’s also keen to point out that while there may only be five tracks on offer, here, the stature of the artists with whom Mogard has had involvement, noting ‘divine renderings’ of songs by Aïsha Devi, Penelope Trappes (The Golden Filter) and nick nicely (heralded by luminaries of the US underground Ariel Pink & John Maus), with the album culminating with Brian Eno’s collaboration with Irish avant-folk band Fovea Hex.

The 2LP, CD and digital editions also feature Abul’s brand new rework of Becoming Animal’s ‘The Sky Is Ever Falling’ which features vocals from Cinder (This Mortal Coil/Cindytalk) and Massimo Pupillo on bass (Zu/Thurston Moore/Stephen O’ Malley),

The album opens with Mogard’s reworking of Aïsha Devi’s ‘O.M.A.’ The minimalism of the original, as well as its woozy atmospherics are substituted for a mellow sonic wash, and while it’s eminently listenable, there is a certain sense of loss. The darker, more disturbing aspects are stripped out in favour of something less psychologically traumatic, but… I’m torn between the function of a remix bringing something different, and it taking out the essence, and this very much feels like a stylised dilution.

In contrast, his rendition of Penelope Trappes’ ‘Carry Me’ distils that essence and concentrates it, while also drawing out three mellow minutes into twelve and a half of droning organ abstraction, and Mogard’s reworking of nick nicely’s ‘London South’ follows the same trajectory, stretching out four minutes of soft, wistful psychedelia into a fifteen-minute drift, with long, sonorous drones expanding to cinematic proportions. The vocals are preserved, but spaced out, pushed to the back, partially submerged in reverb.

Everything reaches a perfect coalescence on ‘The Sky Is Ever Falling’. Which combines cinematic and operatic, minimalism and maximalism, as the sparse yet full, widescreen instrumentation comes to crate the backdrop for a soaring vocal performance that lifts and soars. The piece warps and wefts on a solar wind for almost a quarter of an hour, before the contrails bleed into an eternal scraping drone that creates a soporific calm that flows from foreground to background in an imperceptible transition.

On the one hand, there isn’t much to it, and Mogard’s method is simple – but it’s not only effective, but has ‘signature’ stamped all over it: his style is distinctive, to the point that his reworkings relegate the original artist and their work to a secondary placing while his own sound and style dominate. On occasion such an approach to remixing may appear ‘insensitive’ or even ‘selfish’, but Mogard seems to have established himself as a re-creator more than a remixer, with artists lining up to submit their work to his reworkings, he’s clearly got some leverage in the musical community, and fair play.

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Abul Mogard – And We Are Passing Through Silently