Posts Tagged ‘Nathan Lyons’

20th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

5 guitars follows very quickly the eponymous debut by n, which is Nathan Lyons (concept, guitars) and Neil Physick (software, field recording, processing, arrangements, production, artwork). Its predecessor was the result of musical free association inspired by ‘random’ words: 5 Guitars is less determined by creative process and emerges from more of a conceptual space, in that, according to the accompanying text, it ‘explores the idea of the instruments having their own spirits, benign or malignant, and of a guitar maturing over time then slowly completing its natural life, remembering the past in distant tones’.

This is a work which is very much geared towards the evocative, the listener finding their own place within abstract works and finding the meaning. Only, the listener doesn’t so much find the meaning as project it from their own experience. Does the universal lie in the personal? Most definitely, although 5 guitars isn’t an album that has any grounding in the personal, as much as a space between.

The spirits of the different guitars float into the air, the concept not so much lost in translation as dissolving into vague sonic nebulousness.

Warm, distant drones define the first piece, ‘Red Kay’, which hovers and hums in a mid-range swell which ebbs and flows in a calm, natural way. It bleeds into ‘Effector’, which almost disappears at times, dissolving into the most vaporous, background of ambient.

The narrative and concept isn’t overtly discernible from the music itself: the tracks don’t demark a clear linear progression from mellow tones to decay.

Picked notes are discernible on ‘Tiesco’, but they’re carried in trembling washes that approximate chords but are much vaguer, less defined…. And definition dissipates to nothing amidst the undulating drones which surge beneath the tempered ripples of notes that drift gently over the indistinct, hazy backdrop.

5 guitars is vague, undefined, indirect and unfocused from a listening perspective. And that’s all fine. The concept may not be clear, but has no bearing on the listening experience, and certainly has no impact on the reception side of the project, which is a pleasurable wash of soft tones that more than fulfils its purpose in terms of background.

https://nsound.bandcamp.com/album/5-guitars

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n - 5 guitars

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The accompanying text records that ‘n is a collaboration between close friends Nathan (London) and Neil (Devon). The first album is a collection of seven words which were sent by text and used to inspire and direct the playing and production’. And so, we have insight into the title and the process, but what matters is the end result.

Delicate notes, distanced apart in time, hang in the air, dripping slowly like drops of water from an icicle. And so ‘Trust’ forms, slowly, gradually, imperceptibly, a ringing note at a time; the mood is optimistic, but tentative, fragile. Deeper, fuller, piano notes creep in, but remain at a distance.

‘Subtle’ certainly fulfils its title’s promise, and while there is a gradual growth of an ebb-and-flow, the form is very much forged from soft, rippling notes from beneath which incidental bumps and scratches occasionally emerge.

The power of music like this is the infinite room given for the listener to interpret, ad to project: to fill the vast expanses of space with their own emotional response. I’m as guilty as the next music critic of describing music as ‘haunting’, but what does tat actually mean? For me, it’s about a personal resonance, the way a single note, hanging in a suspension of reverb, evokes memories and feelings, likely completely unconnected in any way to the music itself. But, when the mind is given subtle stimuli which encourages introspective wandering, sensations buried and locked away suddenly rise to the surface, free of the constrictions of linguistic association.

Minimalist is the word: n is sparse both compositionally and sonically, with a hushed ambience rendering the sparing works in a way which accentuates their quietness. One wouldn’t listen to a work like this and highlight a standout track, although ‘Awe’ marks something of a departure from the barely-there spatiality with a fuller sound comprising long, turning, drifts of sonic mist and chirruping birdsong – something which returns in the final track, ‘Truth’, which is uplifting in its tranquillity as I’m reminded of the sounds of early spring, the trilling chatter a confirmation that winter’s gloom is finally losing its grip and light and life can blossom once more.

N is a wonderfully simple, yet meticulously considered and exquisitely executed work, which contains and emanates everything and anything you want it to.

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