Posts Tagged ‘Static Hymns to No One’

Gizeh Records – GZH101 – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Gizeh label founder Richard Knox already has a quite remarkable resume of musical projects, often running simultaneously or overlapping. With Shield Patterns currently quiet and A-Sun Amissa standing as his primary collective vehicle, Knox’s contributions to collaborative works over recent years have been numerous, but to fill a gap – or more likely scratch another itch – he’s stepped into the (half) light with a new solo project, Of Thread & Mist. A fair summary is that the project sounds exactly as the name suggests, and one might say representative of the Gizeh ‘house’ style’ – evocative, haunting, juxtapositional, but also evasive, intangible, ephemeral.

Static Hymns contains two longform tracks: the first, ‘Grace and Truth Perish’ has a running time of eighteen and a half minutes, while ‘A Face Full of Drunken Ticks’ is a colossally sprawling thirty-two-minute epic.

The formulation of the album centres around music ‘composed by Knox then deconstructed and manipulated via hand-made tape loops, beaten-up 4-Tracks and modified cassette players’. There’s very much a sense of artistry around the manipulation of the material, an almost avant-garde collaging, repurposing, reconfiguration, destroying – or at least disfiguring – in order to build anew.

There is something old, faded, slightly damaged about the warped, wavering tape drones that seep tentatively from the speakers to begin with, creating a sense of unease, a certain degree of disorientation, a feeling that something isn’t quite right about the way the different layers of sound rub against one another without quite connecting. It’s a slow, trickling turn as gradients of sweeping waves of sound, broad in spectra and subtly textured like pale watercolours spreading into one another, and the edges blur into indistinction.

This type of cinematic, atmospheric ambient drone is very much Knox’s signature, and he’s long demonstrated a knack for slowly shifting from light to shade and back through almost granular gradation, but where Static Hymns stands out is its almost collage-like approach in places. The different elements overlap, and not always comfortably – and this is very much in their favour in the way in which they challenge the recipient: this is no simple drone-over-and-out, but an album that proffers a sensory challenge, and as such, demands more attention than so many exercises in background drift that occupy the ambient sphere.

Toward the end, the sound again begins to waver, waxing and waning, tapering and yawning, stretching and fading in and out unpredictably, as if slowly degenerating, degrading. There are a number of abrupt false endings as the sound fragments into evermore brief flickers. It stutters, it yawns, and finally, it is done – gone, ended.

But when the sound ends, the reflection begins. Static Hymns is an album that invites reflection in the silence which follows the final notes.

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