Posts Tagged ‘SOFA’

SOFA – SOFA 557 – 21st April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Antipodean multi-instrumentalist, composer and experimentalist Jim Denley has been playing the flute since 1969 and has a formidable reputation in his home territory, not to mention an extensive resumé.

Denley has a preoccupation with location: as there is no flute tradition in his native Australia, his aim – according to his biography – is to situate his music within a global outlook, and takes is cues from flute traditions from other parts of the world, spanning Europe, Papua New Guinea, the Far East and the Amazon, and, in particular, the flute traditions of the Solomon Islands. There is always something to learn: with a background very much rooted in western music, particularly of the post-punk period and beyond, the fact that there are specific regional flute traditions is something I was unaware of. I suspect this is not something unique to me.

Denley is clearly immersed in his research of the traditions which inform his work, in particular this album, with the album’s second longform track, ‘For Celina Rokona’ dedicated to a flautist from Ataa in North East Malaita, who played the Sukute, described as ‘a curious combination of flute and percussion’. Who knew that the flute had such a lengthy and diverse, pan-continental history, or that there were so many hybridisations across the continents? This does perhaps explain why the two nineteen-minute compositions on Cut Air sound precisely nothing like any flute I’ve ever heard.

I’m unclear, after listening to Cut Air, if my knowledge and understanding of these various traditions is any more advanced. Aside from moments of fluttering, tweeting, looping harmonics much of Cut Air consists of quiet. It consists of interloping notes which quiver and quail, tremble and tremor. The air isn’t explicitly cut, but subject to soft, massaging vibrations which alter its movement, softly, subliminally, imperceptibly. This is not an immediate or direct work, and it’s very much an album which requires a degree of patience as it hangs, unobtrusively, in the background.

Jim Denley - Cut Air

SOFA – SOFA 556 – 7th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Within a few weeks of moving into my current home, there was an immense storm, which led to my discovery that it wasn’t water-tight, on account of a) having no cover over the letter box b) some defective guttering c) a gap between the roof tiles and the brick work. Consequently, this – admittedly unusually heavy – downpour resulted in there being a pool of water, an inch or so deep and over two feet in circumference just inside my front door. Ok, it was more of a puddle than an actual pond, but the anecdote serves to illustrate that the surrealist image conjured by the title of Philippe Lauzier’s second album is neither strange nor funny when the abstract notion becomes an actual lived experience.

The album’s four tracks are built around multiple tracks of bass clarinet, but there is nothing on A pond in my living room which could be readily identified by ear alone as being woodwind, and the longform compositions are explorations of sound rather than structure, with not a trace of jazz or orchestral influence to be heard.

‘Bleu Pénombre’ opens the album in a long, swirling churn of feedback. Gradually, layers of sound build, granular textures roughen the surface of the undulating, elongated multitonal humming. It’s a richly atmospheric composition, which suggests a preoccupation with the relationships between sounds as much as with the sounds themselves. Higher pitches and nagging oscillations emerge as ‘Bleu Pénombre’ bleeds into the uneasy ‘Water Sprinkling’. The notes quiver and ripple, like a mirage through a heat-haze. Sharp blasts of white noise fizz against the creeping whines which populate the sparse, eerie ‘On the Window Side’. The result is ominous, unsettling, with the unpredictably-placed shards of static adding moments of shock to the tension which Lauzier sustains over the full duration of the ten-minute piece, which culminates in a dark, rhythmic pulsation.

None of the sound contained on the album carries connotations of water, or even any overt reference to the surreal juxtaposition the title suggests, but this only accentuates the air of abstraction which hangs over the album as a whole. The final track, ‘Napping in a Neglected Garden’ yawns and grates, a metallic creak like a rusty gate opening and closing replayed in half-time dominates the haunting eleven-and-a-half-minute work. Gradually, the slow, natural rhythm becomes subject to disruption and halting adjustments bring further disruption and twist the listener’s sensory adjustment.

A pond in my living room is more effective and affecting by virtue of its comparatively subtle approach. A pond in my living room is not a loud album, and does not rely on harsh textures and tones to achieve its discomforting impact.

Philippe Lauzier - Pond

SOFA551 – 22nd July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

This two-track album by a collective who suggest they ‘might be your favourite new experimental psych-impro-folk band’ is housed in a spectacularly nondescript cover. Nondescript, yet also bizarre: a pair of cabins, on wheels as though for towing, at a garage in the middle of nowhere. Rugged mountains lie in the back. What does it mean? What is it saying? The absence of any people or any sense of movement is also a factor in what makes this image so striking in its plainness. There’s a sterility about it.

This is carried through into the title of both the album and the tracks. ‘The Animal Enters and Traverses the Light’ has an air of clinicality. The sounds themselves are more of nature, yet somehow in keeping: the jangling chimes and gently thrumming rhythms would sit comfortably on the soundtrack of a nature documentary. However, as the track progresses, picked guitar strings begin to build in volume and urgency, achieving a sustained multitonal throb by the twenty-four minute track’s mid-point which gradually gives way to deliberate low-end drone, beneath which crackling burrs rattle a twitchy percussion. The musicality of a strummed acoustic guitar, however irregular and however dissonant the chords, sounds almost incongruous against the rumble which slowly fades. The shifts are gradual but definite.

‘The Human Volunteers Were Kept in Isolation’ begins subtly, a single hum, before picked guitar notes and harmonics creep in by stealth. Gentle acoustic washes glide over supple, delicate percussion.  It’s pensive and understated, and creates an atmosphere that’s hard to define, and a sound more focused on texture and tone than rigid structures. There is melody, but it’s subtle, and there is movement, but it’s not necessarily overtly linear. But to return to the question posed earlier, what does it mean?  More interesting than the cover art is the fact that this superficially conventional line-up of two guitars, bass and drums, creates such unconventional music. But this is the work of David Stackenäs, Kim Myhr, Joe Williamson and Tony Buck of the widely-acclaimed The Necks. It was never going to be straightforward. And does there have to be an extrinsic meaning? Sometimes, the exploration of sound is enough.

Circadia – Advances and Delays