Posts Tagged ‘strings’

14th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’d take cheap red win over red, red wine any day: back in the early to mid-90s as a poor student (back when such a thing existed), Liquorsave – the off-license department of Kwik Save, who at the time were selling their No-Frills baked beans for 3p a tin – it was possible to purchase a bottle of Hungarian red wine at 12% ABV for £1.85. It was actually better – by which I mean not only stronger, but also fuller-bodied – than the £5-£6 bottles of French wine. Nowadays, cheap mis under a fiver, but I’ll still stand by budget wines from the right sources, and in the absence of pubs, people, and life in general over the course of a year of lockdown, cheap red wine has become a friend on a par with strong Polish lager.

Anyway: on ‘Cheap Red Wine’, Muca and the evasive, semi-illusory Marquise paint a laid-back, smoky picture from a minimal sonic palette, evoking the spirit of smoky basements bars of times gone by. It wasn’t so long ago you could find somewhere down some stairs that was open till 1 or 2am and sip a bottled beer or a whisky and feel like you were somewhere else while people smoked… but time is relative. Nevertheless, the easy-going, laid-back jazzy vibes of ‘Cheap Red Wine’ evoke a pretty deep nostalgia, and it hits harder than the song itself, which is simple, melodic, reflective, landing somewhere between Amy Winehouse and Portishead.

Based around a simple acoustic guitar and Muca’s magnificent vocal that drawls, but isn’t quite lazy per se, ‘Cheap Red Wine’ builds to incorporate layers of strings and a wandering electric guitar solo, and conveys a heavy ache of emotion, too. An understated instant classic.

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Cheap Red Wine_Artrwork_Kelly Emrich

Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings – 2nd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those albums you can judge by its cover – and title. Golden Threads From Riven Rot continues to trace the same themes of death and decay as its Inverted Grim Mill predecessor, The Sea To Which The Body Is Drawn.

The liner notes promise Wreaths’ ‘signature swells of fragile strings [which] drift and fluctuate throughout, laying down a thick atmosphere that draws the listener in. While there’s a swamp of sadness to be sinking in, there’s also a hopeful tone.’

The hope isn’t always immediately apparent, and it’s the bleakness of eternity stretching out with nothing to grasp hold of that dominates the album’s eight pieces, the majority of which extend beyond the six-minute mark, giving them room to fully immerse and envelop the listener. The compositions are rich in texture, and the long, slow, droning swells of sound – not notes, not chords, just dense, yet at the same time wispy and intangible, like layers of smoke or fog hanging in the air. The grand sonic vista of ‘The Throes of Them’ is defined by a slowly pulsating rhythmic chime, while ‘That’s How Buildings Burn Down’ grows deeper, darker, denser as it progresses, a rumbling lower-end drone sonorous and heavy beneath the creeping stealth of the top layer, a thin, stratospheric drone that twinkles and shimmers.

The theme of decay dominates the bleakly suffocating smog of ‘Words Come to Rot in the Throat’, the title conjuring the sensation of all the thoughts we fail to articulate as the rise and catch in our throats and remain unuttered, for fear, for shame, for cowardice. Where do those words go? Sometimes, we swallow them back down, but something remains lodged and decaying as those recollections return and manifest as angst and self-loathing. Here, the sounds quiver tremulously as they linger, lost, directionless in the darkness.

Originally self released as a digital album, this CD reissue of Golden Threads From Riven Rot includes the lengthy final ‘lost’ track, ‘A Cloak For Rotting In’. Where it’s been and for how long is unclear, but it’s a sixteen-minute expanse of cold sonic desert. Strings scrape and whine as they suffer in quiet solitude and a sepulchral chill descends. It’s a gloomy, dolorous affair, steeped in sadness.

After Golden Threads From Riven Rot has drifted into nothingness, it leaves you cold, shaken, somehow empty and adrift. The prospect of moving feels beyond attainment, and there is nothing you want to do or listen to afterwards, but sit and bask in the faded silence.

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Emerging from the ashes of several pop bands, BRUIT ≤ was born out of the desire of its members to turn their backs on the majors and return to a process of creation without constraints.

Initially the band’s intention was not to perform live but to research and experiment with sound in a studio environment.

At the end of 2016, this research resulted in two live videos filmed in their studio that would enable the band to make its debut on the Toulouse scene. After this experience, Clément Libes (bass, violin), Damien Gouzou (drums) and Théophile Antolinos (guitar) composed together in search of their own sound identity and with the aim to create progressive music that subverts genre and would result in the expansion of stylistic boundaries. Consequently, during this time the band went through several line-up changes until Luc Blanchot (cello) joined in January 2018.

It was only then that BRUIT ≤ truly felt complete and sure of their direction, creating emotively intense and expansive instrumental compositions of a conceptual nature that merge post-rock, ambient electronica and modern classical.

On 19 July, 2018, BRUIT ≤ signed to Elusive Sound who released their first EP titled “Monolith” in the fall of 2018. Afterwards Bruit went on a 20-show tour of France and Belgium sharing the stage with bands like Shy Low, Slift, The Black Heart Rebellion, Silent Whale Becomes A Dream, Jean Jean, Endless Dive, Poly Math, Orbel or A Burial At Sea. The band was invited to play at the Dunk Festival in 2020 but the event was cancelled due to the Covid19 pandemic.

BRUIT ≤ focused on the composition and production of their first full- length album, changing their line-up again with Julien Aouf taking over on drums. ‘The machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again’, will be released digitally on the 2nd of April 2021. In the spring the album will be released on vinyl by Elusive Sound.

New single ‘Renaissance’ is the 1st track to be shared from the band’s debut with them commenting,

”The piece evokes a humanity reborn from its ashes and rebuilding itself from nature. On this track Mehdi Thiriot has created a video clip, woven with symbols that illustrate the everlasting conflict between nature and culture.’

Watch the video here:

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Icarus Records i008 – 1st December 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those albums, recorded live, that contains continuous sound. This makes sense in context: when improvising a set that’s determined by duration rather than compositions. There is necessarily an element of artifice and restriction around time-constrained ‘slots’. This isn’t necessarily the issue here: Icarus is a radio show, a concert organisation and a record label that focuses on experimental music, contemporary classical and electronica. For more than 10 years, this weekly radio show on Urgent.fm, a university radio station in Ghent, Belgium, invites artists to record live sessions on a monthly basis. Over the years, more than 60 Icarus Live Sessions have been recorded, and the library is still growing.

Five-piece instrumental collective BOW – who play a selection of cellos violins, and, as the name suggests, bowed instruments – played Icarus’ 59th live session in March 2019, and is the first to be released, as a cassette and download.

At times truly beautiful, at others dark and difficult, with manifold shades in between, many of which explore dissonant, challenging sonic spaces that test the listener’s capacity in a host of ways as things veer out of sumptuous classical territory and into dramatic discord, Bow lead the listener through succession of passages. The final minutes are laden with drama, transitioning from a soft jazz swing into a raging tempest of scraping string-bleeding trauma, a surging crescendo that assails the senses with a sustained intensity. This is improvisation at its best, where a collective can read one another and the immediate space around them to not only coalesce each segment and segue between them naturally and intuitively, but to form an overall structure from beginning to end that feels planned, arranged, co-ordinated.

There’s a bonus track on the cassette release: another half-hour of difficult, dissonant drones which begin as a brooding chamber orchestra work and evolves – or perhaps more accurately mutates -into something less graceful but altogether more powerful.

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A ‘stripped back electronic companion to Omertà and Fermi’, Reconstructed Memories features just Paul Kirkpatrick and cellist Rachel Dawson. Kirkpatrick describes it as ‘quite different, more ambient but hopefully still engaging and melodic’, and frames it as ‘the story of life in an hour’.

Omertà and The Fermi Paradox were very different albums, with the latter (link) being an ambitiously expansive work, pushing outwards in all directions, not least in its exploration of time and space. Reconstructed Memories is much more inwardly-focused, and while it’s far from claustrophobic or suffocating, its minimal approach is, in itself, enough to redirect the energy and create a very different atmosphere.

As opening piece, the atmospheric, piano-led ‘A Beginning’ suggests, this is a linear, chronological work. The spoken-word intro, presumably delivered by Dawson, is instructive and creates the space for Reconstructed Memories to unfurl. ‘What should I write and tell? Big stories, big memories are always there… Let’s talk about some small, beautiful memories… Life is full of small memories…’ And it’s so very true. Life is not about the events, but the everyday details. It’s is easy to miss those details, too, caught up in simply existing, and waiting for the events, But you won’t move house, get married, have a child, or otherwise experience something momentous daily, or even often. Landmarks are rare and infrequent, and are relative in the context of the trajectory of a life. But life goes on, and is defined by those fleeting interactions. It’s not just the devil who exists in the detail, but life itself which occupies the cracks and recesses, the spaces in between.

And so it moves, in an evolutionary trajectory, gradually unfurling, expanding, revealing new vistas through a series of memories, reflections, and reconstructions. And it’s beautifully executed, each piece a perfectly-formed vignette delicately spun from soft, rolling piano and graceful strings. The moods are varied, at times light and lilting, others more melancholic and pensive, but ever-shifting and ever-evocative.

‘Regression One’ takes a step into darker territories, with a whispered spoken word narrative and connotations of the awkward, disturbing plunderance of the recesses of memory picked psychotherapy. How real and accurate are those memories? Memories are unreliable, coloured by perspective and faded by time. The effect, is, as the title of the next piece intimates, a blurring. Picked guitar echoes hesitantly, decaying into the mist among atmospheric, ambient strings. The arrangements make optimal use of the minimal instrumentation to create music that’s spacious and contemplative.

The artistic success of Reconstructed Memories lies in its vagueness. Such non-specificity places the process of input onto the listener, and it is they who find themselves reflecting on their experiences, their own hazy and tainted memories, prompted by abstract reminders to turn their gaze inwards. It’s the complete absence of context or meaning which renders the album simultaneously universal and personal.

Screenshot_2019-05-16 Reconstructed Memories Pre-Release Listening Masters

Gizeh Records – GZH73 – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Because this is a Gizeh release, it’s beautifully presented, housed as it is in tri-fold card sleeve with subtle, minimal artwork. While the front cover is difficult to be certain about, the interior tryptic shows a panoramic landscape of a wide glacial valley somewhere in Britain. Observing the division of the fields draws the attention to the relationship between physical and human geography, and this all feels somehow fitting in the framing of Through the Sparkle.

And because this is a Gizeh release, the music it contains is delicate, haunting, sparse yet rich and contemplative. Through the Sparkle sees French ensemble Astrïd collaborate with American pianist and composer Rachel Grimes to spin seven contemporary classical compositions which massage the senses almost with the softest of touches.

Through the Sparkle is not an ersatz pastoral suite, but does keenly conjure a certain, if indefinable, natural spirit. The piano work is exquisite in its subtlety, rippling gently beneath tapering woodwind on ‘The Theme’, while on ‘Mossgrove & Seaweed’ notes lap evenly and lightly to create an air of lightness, of rapid yet serene movement, natural and fluid. It’s a flickering, shimmering sonic tension that shifts and changes shape over its duration,

Nothing about these pieces feels forced or intrusive. They’re the sonic evocations of dappled shade through leaves on a sultry, sunny August afternoon, a light breeze and the full spectrum of verdant hues – albeit with the shades muted by the distance of fading memory. There’s nothing about Through the Sparkle which feels overtly or calculatedly centred around a sense of nostalgia, but a sad, aching beauty – intangible but distinct – will inevitably evoke a certain wistfulness. And so it is that a degree of melancholy drapes itself around the hushed, rarefied atmosphere of the compositions on Through the Sparkle.

A sombre tone overarches the slow march of ‘The Herald en Masse’, which slowly breaks into an uplifting wash of rhythmic sound. It may not have quite the intensity of Swans, but it’s in the same sphere as it rises toward an almost transcendental sway.

Hesitant notes hover at the start of ‘M5’ and the rich, resonant and loamy tones call to mind latter-day Earth. Its sparse arrangement conjures a spacious atmosphere and pulls the listener’s attention into the details of the tone, texture, reverb and a sense of the individual notes breathing in the space around them.

‘Hollis’ brings a graceful melody that’s sad because it’s beautiful, while ‘M1’, the second-half counterpart to ‘M5’ – feels very much about the space between the notes as brief notational sequences cascade from a softly picked acoustic guitar before silence follows. There’s something almost flamenco about the picking of the strings and the way the notes resonate against one another.

The mournful tones of the final track, ‘Le Petit Salon’ are haunting in their understated discord, as piano and strings drift in different directions over percussion which fade in and out. It’s all about progression and movement.

Through the Sparkle balances shimmering, softly shining upliftingless with shifting shadows. It’s an easy yet rich listening experience which brings with it a sense of the way in which music can enrich the soul.

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