Posts Tagged ‘Midira Records’

Midira Records – MD080 – 13th December 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s new year’s day, 2020. Like many, I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on the passing year: I usually do around this time, remembering where I was a year ago, two, three, five, ten years previous. Wondering precisely what I’ve got to show for it. that slow, sad, weight of nostalgia as the images captured in memories fade and curl around at the corners. Wondering: was I actually happier then, less prone to panic, or is this simply rose-tinting, psychological refuge in the comfort of the known, the life lived, rather than the fearful prospect of the unknown future? Such conflict, such dichotomy and dilemma.

And so, another year is indeed over, and here we are, staring into the void. Teetering on the brink of the abyss of a new decade in a post-fact, post-truth world where the capitalist world teeters on the brink of self-induced collapse and global climate catastrophe. And there is no success like failure.

We’ve failed as individuals, and as a species. The year is over… so what is there in prospect?

Open to the Sea’s new album, released late December provides the soothing backdrop to my existential strife, and it’s barely there for the most part. And yet, it’s there just enough: understated, yet still clearly stated.

The press release provides some useful insight into the album’s origins and its creators: ‘Open To The Sea is the collaboration project of Matteo Uggeri and Enrico Coniglio and Another Year Is Over is their second album. While Coniglio focusses on guitar, synths and other instruments, Uggeri adds samples and field recordings to create a soundcosmos full of tiny melodies and themes with appereance by some guest musicians on drums, trumpet and cello. That would make a perfect experimental ambient album with jazzy moments, but Uggeri & Coniglio push this release further by adding some vocals to most of the tracks by inviting guest singers like Dominic Appleton (This Mortal Coil) or Lau Nau from Finland.’

Minimal post-rock forged from sparse piano notes which drift into a rarefied air, spun with subtle, near-subliminal swirls of ambience, and stammering, glitching beats that hammer like a palpating heartbeat rattling in a tense ribcage, and picked guitar notes waft into the ether.

With different vocalists contributing to the various tracks, the tone and feel changes: ‘Heavy Like a Falling Leaf’ is soft, airy, yet poised, while ‘Uninvited Ghost’ and ‘Crystal Dog Barks’ feature a spoken word lyrical delivery, which in some respects changes both the dynamic and balance, and the function of the musical accompaniment, rendering the piece less a song and more of a narrative with instrumental backing.

‘Duduk Confession’ is hushed, brooding, with haunting strings and ominous hums lingering in the shadows, and on ‘Tapes and Cows Pt 1’, lonely brass wails softly over low notes to produce the most forlorn jazz imaginable. Scraping strings and frosty synth flickers accompany the deepest woe, which gradually evolves into warped space-age electro that melts into some warbling jazz trumpet.

The penultimate composition, ‘facing the waves’ is by far the most conventionally ‘songy’ of the ten, with a straight-ahead drum rhythm and solid piano providing the primary instrumentation on a whispy indie/shoegaze work. The fading refrain of ‘time now to start again’ is sung by a layered-up vocal set and, unexpectedly, Interpol come to mind.

The final song, ‘Another Year is Over, Let’s wait for Springtime’, with its whispering dialogue and soft dulcimer shimmers and soft, snowy strings that glide smoothly into the darkest corners, reminds me of my urge to hibernate, but also the fact that everything passes in time and everything is cyclical. Yesterday, today, tomorrow – they’re all points on a circle, and as linear as life lived is, as sure as birth and death, one year will follow the last, and so it will go on, whether we’re here or not.

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MD080_front

Midira Records

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release informs us that Four Movements Of A Shade is the second solo album by Sarram, and that it ‘features four haunting tracks, that move through different genres like doom, drone, ambient and somehow minimal post-rock, played with just a guitar and some synths. The idea behind that album was to go to the studio without having tracks, just an idea and the mood he had in mind to play an improvisational session. The result was recorded in one day and turned out as a very dark and intense soundjourney. You can feel the temper of the recording session by listening to that record. Sarram recommends very loud volume.’

I can’t recall an album that mentions volume which actually recommends playing at a reduced level, although increased volume can definitely increase or even optimise the level of impact and appreciation, depending on context. Music played and recorded at high volume is definitely best heard at the volume intended: there’s a distinct relationship between volume and frequency, and certain frequencies and notational interplays only occur with the amps up. Many of the bands which stand out as purveyors of dangerous decibels – MBV, Sunn O))), Swans, A Place to Bury Strangers – simply wouldn’t work quiet: and I say that as having witnessed Swans’ show at Leeds Cockpit (no longer in existence) a few years ago. At regular gig volume, they sounded like a band rather than a transcendental sonic force capable of shattering atoms.

Listening to Four Movements of a Shade, the benefits of increased amplification soon becomes clear. It’s got some heft, and while these are countered by extended quieter passages which are often delicate and nuanced, and chime along nicely at ordinary levels, it’s when the crescendos climax that Sarram’s music really needs to be felt vibrationally as well as sonically.

The first movement begins quietly, rising to a bowel-trembling wall of low and mid-range dark ambient droning sonic cloud. Big, barbed, sonorous swells of sound scrape sharp edges, while other aspects of the resonant whirling blackness cast sinister shadows, long and deep: hints of the billowing drone of Sunn O))) build into tempestuous thunder and rumbling, grating storms that cast unsettling atmospherics into the psyche and resonate around the gut, but this is very much a composition of ebb and flow. Nevertheless, while the underlying menace remains undiminished, around the mid-point the darkness yields to dappled sunlight and soft strings, hinting and optimism and freedom. For a fleeting moment, one actually feels somehow lighter, despite the inescapable sense that it’s only the calm before the next storm – an instinctive drag that proves – of course – to be correct. It’s always a matter of when, rather than if….

The album’s second half – comprising the megalithic, fifteen-minute third movement and the final, eight-minute forth – focus on the atmospheric layers and the drifting clouds of drone on drone, occasionally straying into expansive post-rock territory.

If it feels like the grip of darkness is being released, the dying minutes swirl into a deep, dark vortex that leave the listener drained, shattered.

The success – and ultimate power – of Four Movements lies in Sarram’s attention to detail and the compositional awareness: it’s not just the way the crushing weight contrasts with the graceful levity, but the timing of the transitions. Everything is exquisitely poised and placed to yield the greatest effect – cerebral, emotional, physical – and that effect is most moving.

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Sarram – Four Movements of a Shade