Posts Tagged ‘instrumental’

Anna von Hausswolff shares the title track from her forthcoming new album, All Thoughts Fly, to be released via Southern Lord on 25th September. Here in solo instrumental mode, the entire record consists of just one instrument, the pipe organ, and represents absolute liberation of the imagination. Anna offers further insight into the title track below. 

"I wanted to play with dissonance and polyrhythms to create a harmonic landscape that is constantly changing and expanding into something else. Everything you hear in this track, every little overtone and all ambience is entirely made through the organ. We used EQ but that’s it.  The overall idea was to create an illusion of flying thoughts, intertwining and entangling into each other. Different words and worlds happening at the same time, affecting each other and changing each other’s directions and courses."

Listen to ‘All Thoughts Fly’ here:

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Jam Records/343Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Misophonia is the third solo outing for Third Of Never guitarist/founder Jon Dawson, and it’s certainly quite a departure from his main musical vehicle. Instead of mining a seem of driving rock with clear ‘classic’ roots in the vintage greats, Misophonia is an exercise in dreamy floaty, droney electronica, punctuated with some magnificently mellow, understated guitar work.

Everything is drenched in infinite reverb, and has an aura of ethereal otherness and distance. On ‘Lighter Fluid’, a child’s voice cries out amidst crunches and crackles of static, while ‘Coffee From a Stranger’ is a sliver of whimsical country slide that chimes and tinkles and fades in and out of focus. There are dark undertones and dank rumblings to be found on ‘David Lynch Owes Me Money’ as well as distant instrumentation and a rising tension.

Birdsong, glitches and extranea feature heavily across the album’s fifteen short segments which segue into one another to form a near-continuous abstract drift, and the story behind the album’s development during the recording of Third of Never’s last album, Austerity, as told by Dawson himself, is interesting and useful in proving some context:

“I started the Misophonia project during the sessions for the Third Of Never album Austerity, which turned out to be a real bruiser,” Dawson said. “As a way to cleanse the palette between sessions, I started scoring the events of the day using drones, soundscapes, and piano. Listening back to it now, it seems as if the proceedings had taken a tense tone.”

It resonates: while taking isolated walks, like many, I have noticed birdsong more. Perhaps not because there are more birds or more songs, but because the roar of traffic and planes and general noise is diminished. Then, against the backdrop of such quiet, distant engines and other sounds stand out more. I’ve heard fewer sirens, but suspect that’s because ambulances and other emergency vehicles have no traffic to clear, not because of a lack of emergencies. Context counts, and it makes sense to clear the mind with something completely unstructured and soft while bashing out hefty riffs by way of a dayjob.

‘Someone is Walking Toward the House’ is filmic, but also captivatingly haunting, as a picked guitar motif drifts across a low-end grumble, while the final piece, ‘The Age of Anxiety’ pins a rarefied atmosphere to a sad, lonely piano that echoes into emptiness. And it hits home: we are all there, surrounded by nothing, just sound in space and we cling to whatever we can. This is indeed not only the age of anxiety, but the specific point where life threatens to overwhelm us.

What Misophonia offers is the opportunity to step back, reflect, and create much-needed mental space.

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30th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Having begun May with a new release in the form of Beyond Life, an exploratory ambient work in the form of a single twenty-six minute track, Ashley Sagar ends the month with a follow-up, and counterpart of similar scope and scale.

If the title suggests something a bit new-age, a bit hippy, trippy cosmic, and a bit pretentious, the music is contains isn’t anything of the sort, although there is a certain haze of mysticism and perhaps a sniff of incense about the album’s slow-drifting atmospherics.

There’s a faint scratching pulsation, like a metal object scraping against scratched glass, that grabs my attention early on: the arrival of slow, sedate, rolling percussion– possibly conga or similar hand drums – provides a new focus for the attention, and changes the tone considerably. With a rhythmic structure providing a framework and solidity, the piece becomes less overtly ambient and abstract. Shifting further over time towards cyclical, non-percussive rhythms transports the listener into a softer pace, before an unexpectedly weighty segment around the eleven-minute mark where the beats crash in and dominate, however briefly.

Thereafter the looming shadows are longer and darker, with rumbling low notes and heavy drones underlying Ian Mitchell’s delicate picked guitar notes and the returning percussion, along with one of Sagar’s distinctively strolling basslines. It may be subtle and muted, but its presence builds depth beneath the numerous shimmering layers which ebb and flow.

The segments are short and the transitions relatively swift, which gives The Temple… a strong sense of movement, movements that’s effortless and natural, since the parts flow seamlessly into one another like a stream flowing through a varied landscape, cascading from a spring-line, down a hillside and through a woodland. This may not be the most fitting metaphor, but you get the idea, and it’s perhaps telling that my mind is drawn to the natural rather than the spiritual, and I’m drawn to the distant horizon as the final notes throb and ripple to the fade.

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Nahal Recordings – 10th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Because detail is important, let’s begin with the parenthesis. The label’s press release announces ‘We teamed up with the extraordinary French ondist Christine Ott to create an unprecedented album entirely made with Ondes Martenot, one of the very first monophonic and experimental synthesizers in history’, resulting in ‘a cosmic journey of layered waves of sound’.

Maurice Martenot’s invention may not have acquired the popular status of the theremin, but Christine Ott’s instrument of choice is nevertheless significant in the evolution of sound generation as one of the very first monophonic and experimental synthesizers in history back in 1920.

Chimères begins with a pause, at least metaphorically: ‘Comma’ is six minutes of instrumental hauntology, as the notes trail, taper and quaver into still air and silence. As the album’s title suggests, this is a curious hybrid work, and while perhaps less monstrous than all that, the Ondes Martenot conjures strange, otherworldly sounds that are, at times, quite unsettling as they yawn, quiver, and squelch into seas of reverb. At times resembling analogue synth sounds, and at others approximating strings and even woodwind, the

‘Todeslied’ is the sound of disembodied spirits flittering around in the physical world, a phantasmagorical freakshow of sonic ectoplasm which gradually bubbles its way through a succession of bursts and plumes via something semi-industrial into a tranquil sunlit meadow of sound. Meanwhile ‘Sirius’ brings some deep ambience, while the eight-minute ‘Eclipse’ brings swirl of darkness that’s more of a sucking black hole than a fleeting dimming of light, building to a whupping rotary sound and blizzard of bleeps in the final minute.

It’s a lot to take in, and closer ‘Burning’ is a magnificent if slightly disorientating combination of slow-glooping electronica and orchestral chamber music. It isn’t easy to assimilate, but it is wonderfully executed, and once you can overcome the unfamiliarity of the form, there are some magical moments to be discovered.

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3rd May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ashley Sagar is a man with his finger in manifold musical pies, spanning the semi-ambient droning improv of Orlando Ferguson to the thumping Krautrock grooves of The Wharf Street Galaxy Band. It’s Sagar’s willingness to experiment, and to try anything once that’s a significant factor in his interest as a musician. What’s important for anyone engaging in experimentalism is the acceptance that degrees of success and failure may vary along the way, and it’s with no embarrassment that I recall sharing a stage with him and Namke Communications’ John Tuffen for a hastily-assembled improv set built around a sort of sequence and structure that was actually ok, but not what any of us had really anticipated.

Anyway, under lockdown and unable to play his distinctive wandering basslines live with any of the eighteen or so bands he performs with, Sagar has delivered his second solo album of the year, in the form of the soft ambient work that is Beyond Life, which comprises a single track with a twenty-six minute running time.

It begins with slowly rhythmic vibraphone tones that reverberate softly into a warm atmosphere. Immediately I begin to question this: is it a vibraphone? I’m not strong when it comes to mallet percussion instruments, or synthesised emulations thereof. Equally, I can’t trust that my perception of a ‘warm atmosphere’ isn’t coloured strongly by the unseasonably warm and sunny weather paired with the unusual quietness outside on such a balmy evening, where I’d ordinarily likely be at a gig and the street and back gardens would be chocka with people between pubs and stoking early bank holiday barbecues.

As my thoughts drift, so does the music, and although it doesn’t grab my full focus, is does very much permeate my reflections as I go inside myself, recalling a life before all of this, a life when life was actually life, when, however much going out and being among people may have been a cause of anxiety, it was an option, and live shows provided the opportunity to be among likeminded individuals coming together to escape into sonic domains.

And so here we are, all isolated together, supposedly, in a state beyond life. Sagar provides a subtly-structured soundscape to ease these contemplations along, quietly shifting from one tone and texture to another, from light and airy to low and sombre, piano notes ringing out into the emptiness.

The streets are empty. The pubs, hotels, gyms, shops are empty. The sky is empty. The world is empty. We are all empty. And Beyond Life is beautiful.

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10 to 1 records

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been three years since The Doomed Bird of Providence graced us with Burrowed into the Soft Sky, an album containing two richly atmospheric longform instrumental tracks. With the Rumbling Clouds of War Hover Over Us, which bears a characteristically cumbersome title, Mark Kluzek continues to pursue an instrumental direction, while moving away from Australian colonial history in favour of and exploration the escape of his grandfather Władysław Kluzek from Poland after the German invasion in WWII

The EP, containing four pieces, is demarked at four parts, indicative of a continuous but segmented sequence. Being instrumental, however, any narrative bent is very much implicit, and with a combined running time of approximately twenty minutes, Rumbling Clouds of War Hover Over Us returns to the more succinct style of previous releases.

The title makes sense in context, but carries a universality in reminding us that we are never more than a few short steps from war, and these delicately-poised compositions are heavy with sentiment, dense with instrumentation that articulates it while leaving room for interpretation.

Part 1, the title track, begins with a sombre piano and trudging drum, augmented with strings and woodwind to forge a dense, lugubrious atmosphere. There’s a slow, sashaying gallic-slash-silent movie feel to ‘You Never Became Used to Death’, and the rolling piano rolls into ‘Constant Moving Stream’ which builds the theatrics and drama with bold chords swelling over another insistent beat that marches on while a crescendo swells and then fades, its peak unrealised, the tension unresolved. The final piece, ‘But Something to Aim For’ keeps things taut, and is filmic and threatens a climax that never quite breaks, and that tension remains unresolved even with the soaring violin work and gradual layering that brings the album it its conclusion.

Being instrumental, there’s no overt narrative to be played back or unravelled here: Rumbling Clouds of War Hover Over Us relies on an element of input from the listener. True to form, The Doomed Bird of Providence conjure some stirring passages that resonate internally, subconsciously, and echo deep within.

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This is it Forever – 14th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Since whittling down to just Gavin Miller, worriedaboutsatan’s outut has positively exploded, with the latest offering, which Miller describes as ‘quite an experimental little thing’ sees him share a tape – a side each – with Capac.

‘Orion’ is indeed quite experimental, and marks something of a departure for Miller, transitioning through a sequence of passages that rupture forth unexpectedly. At its heart, the piece is appropriately spacey, with squelchy quirts of analogue phase illuminating the smooth, slow-moving expanse of soft drones. It’s dense and atmospheric, and distant rumbles of thunder register like planets colliding way off in other solar systems before heraldic horns and full galactic marching band parades it way through. Gunned down in a blitzkrieg of lasers and noise, leaving an expanse of desolation, a near-emptiness.

Capac’s ‘A Well-Turned Suite’ is altogether darker, an eerie discord creating an ominous atmosphere. The four-piece describe themselves as creators of ‘sonic explorations of the murkier spaces in and between “new music”, and there’s certainly an exploratory quality to this fourteen-minute aural ambulation. At first there is calm, sustained notes that hover and hum for an age, stretching time itself. Gradually, cracks and fissures begin to appear in the smooth surface, and wheezing organ notes begin to twist and disconnect, and over time, the tension rises as atonality takes over. Muffled beats stutter and thump anxiously, and the sloe fade leaves only the whisper of the breeze.

It’s an intriguing release, and the two pieces are unusual and more than contrasting enough to sustain the interest for the duration.

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WAS and Capac

Metropolis Records – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Dark, slithering atmospherics – the sound of a postindustrial, postapocalyptic, Bladerunner cityscape, with twitching broken cables fizzing sparks showering into anonymous alleyways – mark the opening of Nero Bellum’s solo debut. A low, gut-churning bass grinds in against hefty beats – not snare drums, but blasts of distorted noise, and as such, ‘Another Prayer to Lucifer’ sets the tone.

Representing two years’ work, with each piece being recorded live, ‘improvised, with no overdubs, and without the use of computers in the creative process’, NFRNº marks a clear departure from the industrial metal of Psyclon Nine.

It’s still got an industrial feel, but it’s about atmosphere rather than brutal attack. Everything is dank, murky, indistinct, and while many of the arrangements are sparse, there’s an oppressive density which permeates the album as a whole. Monotonous, hammering beats thud dolorously, pounding relentlessly against whirring electronics with serrated edges, and each piece bleeds into the next to forge a sprawling mass of discomfort. The album’s impact stems not from its range, but precisely from it’s lack, bludgeoning the senses with trudging repetition and tonal similarity. There is next to no light here, only varying shades of darkness and inhuman bleakness.

‘An Angel’s Offering’ hints at some sort of redemption, with blooping, skittering interloping synth lines that venture into (comparatively) accessible dance territory, before ‘The Beauty in Something Broken’ offers the first pang of melancholic yearning from amidst the relentless stream of emotionally-desensitised machine-made noise.

The reprieve is but brief, though, and ‘Stranded’ wavers back down the path toward darker territories, casting an air of uncertainty and trepidation with its quavering drones. The closing pairing of ‘A Candle Once Burned’, which is more the sound of hope being extinguished rather than light, and the onset of a purgatorial emptiness, and ‘Never Good Enough’ wanders in shadow, formless, with no sense of closure as it fades to nothing.

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Nero Bellum – NFRNº

Pelagic Records – 25th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m something of a latecomer to the Mono party, although given their credentials, I can’t fathom for the life of me why I haven’t explored a single one of the nine albums they’ve released over the last twenty years. Too much music, too little time, is probably the only real reason. And, witnessing them live by way of an introduction, my initial impression was only middling: on the night, I found more in Jo Quail’s surging waves of cello and the gritty abrasion of A Storm of Light. But context matters, and I had gone for the other two acts, and so now, with a large gin and a candle for light, I’m ready to approach their latest, the Steve Albini-recorded Nowhere Now Here with fresh ears.

‘After You Comes the Flood’ lifts the curtain on a proggy post-rock crescendo that offers up every shade of grand. It’s a crescendo that doesn’t only sustain, but swell to even more monumental proportions, with layer upon layer of sound and richer, dirtier distortion filling the background.

Quite a deal was made when Mono featured vocals for the first time not so long ago, and the performance of songs with singing seemed to be a major topic of conversation when I caught them in Leeds last year. They’re used sparingly here, and on the vaporous, shoegaze drift of ‘Breathe’, they serve more as another instrument than a focal point.

The string-soaked epic that is the title track again follows what is by now a well-established post-rock formula of long, gradual builds and rapid drops that pull back from the precipice, but it’s so magnificently executed that it would be churlish to criticise. And herein lies the album’s success: much of the material does fall under the broad umbrella of ‘standard’ instrumental post-rock (although acknowledging that Mono were one of the bands who contributed to the creation of a genre whose tag they reject is important), the compositions and their performance are masterclasses in shifting dynamics and delayed gratification. As they lead the listener through ponderous passages of awe-inspiring grace only to reveal towering cathedrals of sound just around the corner, even the predictable forms hold unexpected twists, like the sonic supernova that explodes at 5’39” on ‘Sorrow’.

Steve Albini is perhaps more commonly associated with ‘noisy’ music, but his reluctance to be credited as a producer is a reflection of his abilities as a technician, and the fact he strives to capture the essence of any given band’s sound rather than impose his own vision on their work. With Mono’s method involving playing live in the studio, the pairing makes complete sense, and it’s fair to say that Nowhere Now Here very much captures not only the sound, but the feel of a live show, with the shifting tension, emotional resonance of chiming guitars brooding in the dark, and the exhilarating rush of catharsis that effuses through a truly blistering crescendo. It’s those indefinable, unmanipulable details which make Nowhere Now Here.

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Mono - Nowhere