Posts Tagged ‘Time’

Constellation – 26th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

One’s perception of time changes with its passage. As you get older, it seems different, and passes differently too. In childhood, there’s the sense that summers are long and sunny, school holidays stretch out in front of you like a playing field the size of Wembley Stadium, whereas in adulthood, six weeks is no time, and the summer means it’s nearly time to start considering Christmas. But even in adulthood, while there’s a keen and pressing awareness of the rapid passing of time, it’s easy – and perhaps it’s how we’re psychologically wired – to ignore the overall narrative span while focusing on the rapid cycle of existing in the present. You get caught up in the infinite and swift cycle of the working week, thee routine, you complain about how time flies as New Year becomes Easter becomes Hallowe’en becomes Christmas, even how every birthday marks the passing of another year. But for all the talk of making the most of life and living every day or week like it could be your last, that’s what it is – talk. Because it’s almost impossible to comprehend there being an end, not just of life, but of anything. It’s simply human nature to take things for granted, that the sun will always rise, that you will always be able to buy the same bread and crisps and whatever in the supermarket.

And then they stop making a certain brand of crisps or chocolate and there are mutters of discontent, and then, twenty years later, online forums are oozing nostalgia for these things. These things of no consequence.

Over the course of seven previous album since 2001, Canadian quintet Esmerine, co-founded by percussionist Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and cellist Rebecca Foon (Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Saltland) have, as their bio notes, straddled the boundaries of ‘contemporary classical and late 20th century Minimalism’ and ‘more visceral and lyrical sonic terrain born from post-rock, folk and global.’

Such a broad palette is the perfect base from which to paint scenes of shifting perspectives that explore the theme of the title.

Time stalls during the nine-minute ‘Entropy: Incantation – Radiance – The Wild Sea’ – a piece which transitions through numerous parts and brings a range of atmospheres, from quietly brooding piano solo to soaring, majestic post-rock, trickling into the brass-orientated ‘Entropy: Acquiescence’ which evokes that sepia toned Hovis advert kind of nostalgia. And so it’s here I discover that that isn’t an exclusively English thing, but still – there is a cultural heritage of a nostalgia for a golden age of simplicity and innocence. It is, of course, a fallacy: past times were difficult, flawed. It’s easy to hanker for a rose-tinted rendition of a past you never knew, and ‘Imaginary Pasts’ seems to acknowledge this, wordlessly, via the medium of slow drones and rippling piano.

And so it is that Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More mines a golden post-rock seem of evocativeness, conveyed by means of slow-burning epics, interspersed with fragmentary pieces, which, while under three minutes in duration, give the album a certain sense of pace amidst the spic sprawlers, which culminate in the seven-and-a-half minute ‘Number Stations’. The brooding ‘Wakesleep’ is tense and eerie, with a sense of foreboding, that paves the way for the dolorous funeral chimes that herald the arrival of the closer.

There’s a sadness to it, and it’s this sadness which permeates the album as a whole. It’s a sadness that speaks of lost time and fading pasts. And when they’re gone, they’re gone. And yet there are soft hints of redemption, that nothing is entirely finite. Nothing is forever, but memories linger longer than life.

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cover Esmerine - Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More

Room40 – RM4130 – 13th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m still recovering from the last Celer release I covered – the four-disc Future Predictions, released only last summer. It wasn’t harsh or sonically challenging: it was just really, really long. This one, however, is rather shorter, comprising twelve tracks with a running time of just twenty-nine minutes.

It is, notably a departure. As the press notes detail, with In Light Of Blues, ‘[Will] Long pivots away from long-form works to create a series of vignettes that capture the essence of his aesthetics interests. The record condenses and refines his compositional methodologies forming each piece as an acoustic miniature speckled in hazy harmony and evocative tonality’.

As such, as much as In Light Of Blues is a departure, it is also very much a continuation of his previous work, while concentrating it down to shorter snippets – but with no loss of power or depth. Long’s comments on the reason for this departure are illuminating:

‘It was months ago, but it could have been weeks, days, or even hours since then. I stopped wanting to hear loops, I wanted to stop it. I added brass; trumpets, trombones, and more horns. I cut it out like words from a book, and sewed it back together. Burroughs. These movements are merely to stay alive, to stay moving.’

In citing [William] Burroughs, Long’s observation that ‘You wake up from a truck horn passing in the early morning hours on the nearby freeway, or from a dream that you can’t tell was a nightmare or a loving memory… Someone walks by on the street wearing the same perfume. I drew out each place, each scene, and put the story there. It might have been with you, or without you. All I know is that you were there somehow the whole time, even if you weren’t’ marks a striking parallel with some of Burroughs’ statements on the way the cut-up technique was an attempt to being art closer to life: “every time you walk down the street, your stream of consciousness is cut by random factors… take a walk down a city street… you have seen half a person cut in two by a car, bits and pieces of street signs and advertisements, reflections from shop windows – a montage of fragments”.

While the pieces on In Light Of Blues are composed from a montage of fragments, instead of jarring against one another and crossing over one another to replicate the blizzard of simultaneity that is life, they blur together to create a slow-creeping sonic mist. The details are obscured, the edges indistinct, the definition vague to almost absent. Some of the pieces are fragments in themselves: the second of the three ‘Melancholy Movement’ compositions is only fractionally over a minute long, and there are a number of pieces of similarly brief duration.

Time appears to be something of a leading preoccupation on In Light Of Blues, as titles including ‘Days Before the Change’, ‘In the Intimate Hours’, ‘After All Time’, and ‘Precious Past Hours’ indicate. The titles suggest a certain urgency, an anxiety, even, over the passing of time that’s not necessarily apparent in the music itself. But as is so often the case, with ambient / abstract musical forms, the music conveys only some aspects of the full meaning or intention, and beneath comparatively tranquil surfaces often lie more trouble currents, and there are numerous billows of darker, denser sound which rumble and stir, evoking brewing storms amidst the soft layers of the pieces here.

Perhaps this is the real pleasure – and perhaps also the purpose – of In Light Of Blues. It’s an album that can simply be allowed to drift along in the background, the darker clouds occasionally tugging the attention while, in the main, it may pass largely without the demand for focus. But closer attention yields greater rewards, in the sonic depths and subtle textures that reveal themselves through that engagement, and to seek the space beneath the surface, to explore its context and origins and consider what it may mean beyond the surface yields more still.

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RM4130_front

ROOM40 – 5th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

A single, repetitive beat rings out for what feels like an eternity. With nothing else to focus on, the mind begins to conjure deceptions: is it entirely consistent in tempo and timbre? Or are some beats vaguely out of step by an infinitesimal fraction of second? Are some strikes harder or softer than others? A sparse chord rises up, slowly, then stops abruptly. The beat goes on. Another chord swells…. Repeats, disappearing the same way as the first. Then just as something threatens to build, the beat stops. The notes drift, without form, direction, or guidance. Eventually, just as tension and a certain confusion begins to mount, everything comes together: the rhythmic thud, the strings, the soft ambience and the faint strains feedback, combine to create a resolution. Unsteady, somehow incomplete, but a resolution. And so it is that ‘Neither Flesh not Fleshless’ sets the tone for At the Still Point of the Turning World.

The album takes its title from T.S. Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’, the first of his Four Quartets sequence:

IV

Time and the bell have buried the day,

The black cloud carries the sun away.

Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis

Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray

Clutch and cling?

Chill

Fingers of yew be curled

Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing

Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still

At the still point of the turning world.

This collaborative work is preoccupied with time and how we experience it, and the accompanying blurb observes how the two artists were very much working both with and against one another in the creative process – which seems an apt analogy for the human relationship with time itself. On the one hand, it’s simply a concept, and an intangible: and yet we see and feel it, in the short and long terms: there is no escaping time, and no-one ever fought time and emerged triumphant. The still point is but the blink of an eye, and the turning is endless despite its invisibility. These are the irreconcilable and dichotomous tensions which inform the sonic push-and-pull Gama and Fernandes explore and exploit in these compositions, which are simultaneously smooth but turbulent.

‘The Patterns is Movement’ is a slow swell and glide of sombre strings pitched against a desolate but mournfully graceful piano: the form is vague, but there is something rather post-rock about the brooding disquiet. It segues into unsettling, rumbling industrial clanking way off at a distance. The haunting clangs of metal are cold, without comfort. I’m pulled back into the mindset of the worker: the ghosts of heavy labour still haunt the structures of the tertiary industries which now dominate the western world. The final coupling of the sparse and altogether lighter ‘Lucid Stillness’ and ‘Shaft of Sunlight’ pitch the album to a calmer, more redemptive close.

While much of the movement within the compositions on this album is slow, and often somewhat non-linear and marks a trajectory that’s divergent, indirect and non-evolutionary, there is, nevertheless, an indisputable sense of movement that’s perpetual.

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Joana Gama   Luís Fernandes – At the Still Point of the Turning World

Von Archives – VON 023

Christopher Nosnibor

The idea behind the Cordiox from which Ariel Guzik’s album takes its name is a machine which was conceived by the inventor of the radio, Gugliemo Marconi, in a dream just weeks before his death in 1937. He had theorised that sound never dies, but instead emanates and radiates eternally. As such, he believed that every sound ever made still existed in the ether, and that it was theoretically possible to tune into the recordings of every moment in history. The machine Marconi visualised would confirm this theory. Guzik’s Cordiox was conceived as an instrument which crosses portals of time and bridge infinite space, and this album very much encapsulates the enormity of that concept and ambition.

‘Cordiox is a machine, an instrument that communicates through time, vibrates and resonates to its surroundings, creating a response to it, communicating with it. Rather than making an unlistenable riot of noise, Guzik’s recordings here are as much concerned with the enormity of time and space, and the way everything blurs, slows and distorts, reduced to a low hum as its ends move further and further apart.

Creating a slow-motion soundscape of almost incomprehensible enormity, chimes burst like terrestrial gongs, rippling vibrations into the cosmos. The first track is an otherworldly cloud of drifting, turning sound in which time stands still.

Long, low, languorous notes are hang in space for aeons; time stalls as the notes turn imperceptibly for eternity after eternity. The second track continues in the same vein, but works from a broader sonic palette, with elongated drones rising and drifting over the interminable sonic mass. Long, low undulations ripple slowly beneath long, tapering trumpets of fluid tonality. An eerie sonic ooze which hangs in suspension between time and space, it’s the sound of all sound, singing out across infinity.

 

Ariel Guzik - Cordiox