Posts Tagged ‘The Soft Bit’

Fabrique Records – 18th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Berlin-based composer and sound artist Jana Irmert has approached her third album for Fabrique with a view to exploring the way in which sounds have a certain sensory aspect. There’s a way in which music touches us, not just aurally, nor emotionally: some music you really do feel. Beyond music at the louder, harsher end of the spectrum – be it electronic or more conventional in its instrumentation, this is something that is perhaps more common to experimental forms, where contrasting sounds and the shapes and textures of those sounds are more the focus than the unity of a collection of instruments for create ‘songs’.

Articulating how music makes you feel is one challenge, but articulating how music itself feels – or moreover, how the sounds themselves feel – is an immense challenge. Because writing, like any other art, can often reveal its authors limitations, however well they’re working. Every artist has their own personal limitation. Francis Bacon was unable to paint feet, for example. The greatest limitation is invariably the disparity between concept and execution, and often, for musicians, it’s articulating the sound in their head using actual instruments – or, if not articulating the sound, conveying complex emotions through the medium of sound.

Jana Irmert’s challenge here was to render one sensation through another. “I felt I wanted to get closer to the sounds, feel their structure and surface and how they contrast each other,” she says. And, during the process, her recordings yielded some quite unexpected results: “It turned out the processed sounds resulting from hard materials would often have soft and tonal qualities whereas those made from ‘soft’ materials like water or air would ultimately be of percussive or harsh and noisy character.”

The opening bars of the first piece, ‘Lament’, are unexpectedly dense and heavy, a rugged, grainy tone that grinds from the speakers before slowly tapering down to something rather more tranquil, yet draped with the weight of melancholy. Moving into ‘Against Light’, Irmert creates a much more upbeat ambience, a shimmering, shuffling stuttering of sound, and it’s gentle, but not entirely calming or comforting, like being stuck in a tractor beam, a glitching loop that affords no forward trajectory.

With the sounds of the sea, the title track initially seems like it will fulfil the description, offering something soft, soothing, immersive. But as layers build, darker sounds clunk and rumble and loom and lurk in thickening shadows.

There is a certain sense of progression over the course of the eight compositions, with more percussive sounds coming increasingly to the fore. In doing so, the album gradually moves from intangible to something altogether more substantial, its physicality developing an almost corporeal tangibility.

Listening to The Soft Bit, one feel as though one is somehow in nature, and surrounded by nature, from the clouds, and the air – invisible, yet capable of substantial force when moving as a wind – to solid objects – stones, trees, the ground beneath the feet. Listen, inhale it all in, and feel it flow.

AA

FAB088_front