Posts Tagged ‘unsettling’

Room40 – 11th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I struggle to keep up with the influx of material I’m sent for review, and have done for at least the last 8 years, which may or may not be coincidental with a) becoming a parent b) rapidly developing a massive network or PR and band contacts. It turns out that there comes a point when you don’t need to ask to be added to mailing lists, and people just find you. Anyway. Sometimes I just struggle, but that’s a whole other matter.

Apparition Paintings is a collection of oddly disjointed compositions that alternately soothe and trip the listener, moving between mellow melodies and rippling calmness – ‘All I Desire’ is a slow melt of chillwave, electronic post-rock and Disintegration-era Cure – and eerie weirdness – ‘When I first came here (I thought I’d never get used to the trains; now when it’s quiet I get nervous)’ is part chamber-pop, part deranged spookiness. None of this sits comfortably, in any context, and the deeper one delves into the eerie collage work that is Apparition Paintings, the more unsettling it becomes.

Toop’s notes which accompany the release are as disjointed and confounding as the music they accompany: ‘Don’t ask me about genre or consistency. Who cares? Half the world is drowning; the other half is in flames. Each story is an animal, a plant, something you drink, a surface you touch, a faint line, some memory emanating from a cardboard box. “’Things’ in themselves are only events that for a while are monotonous,” wrote Carlo Rovelli in The Order of Time. Maybe sounds are melting ‘things’, tired of the monotonous real.’

Yet on a certain level it makes sense. In a post-Covid world. The monotonous real is the lived experience of the everyday for many – not that it wasn’t before, but now, without the commute, without being in proximity to the volatile colleague, the explosive tension or the whatever, the monotonous real is confined to the household and to within the head. It may not be immediately apparent, but Apparition Paintings is a sort of inside soundtrack of the now, with extraneous and unexpected noises pinging back and firth across the main sonic backdrops to each piece.

‘She fell asleep somewhere outside the world’ finds a disembodied female voice singing a quavering melody, hesitantly. It’s a popular trope, but the deranged, childlike singing against a spooky backdrop is an effective trigger for cognitive dissonance. Apparition Paintings is an album that very much speaks to the sounds of the interior.

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Hallow Ground – HG2005 – 5th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For this release, it’s worth laying out the context in detail, as provided in he press release, which explains that the album ‘was conceived as the soundtrack for the eponymous installation piece by the French artist Fanny Béguély.’

‘First presented as part of the group exhibition »Panorama 21 – ›Les Revenants‹« at Tourcoing’s Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains in December 2019, Béguély’s chemically painted photographs focused on humankind’s propensity for self-examination and its attempts to probe the mysteries of the past, present and future. Oberland’s heavily processed electric hurdy-gurdy, the »boîte à bourdons,« provides the foundation upon which the Borghesia member Tomažin unfolds her gripping vocal magic(k). Their dense mesh of soundscapes and singing mediate between the mystic and the modern, the natural and the all-too-unreal to further examine our persistent desire to decipher the signs we find in nature. As the first collaboration between these prolific experimental artists, ARBA, DÂK ARBA is as evocative and thought-provoking as the art that has inspired it.’

The hurdy gurdy is by no means a common or popular instrument. Not that you’d be likely to be able to discern any specific instruments on the five sparse, ominously atmospheric pieces presented here.

From a sparse, quivering tone surrounded by emptiness, ‘Grotta’ builds in density over the course of fourteen and a half minutes into dense bugle of sound, a deep, resonant thrum over which mournful sounds – voice-like but not voices – moan and groan as they drape elongates notes of sadness over an increasingly uncomfortable backdrop.

This is not an album so settle down comfortably with, and it’s not a comfortable kind of ambience: ‘Fumes’ brings a suffocating tension, heightened by the unintelligible vocals that speak – wordlessly – of an inner torment as they reverberate in an endless monotone, through which rumbles of thunder rupture. Ululations undulate evoking strange, distant lands and mystical esotericism. It culminates in a long, isolated drone, almost lost beneath a cacophony of shrieking, wailing, and crying. It’s difficult to hear: I feel my chest tighten: it’s the sound of pain of torture.

‘Hieromancy’ (brief research tells me this is a form of divination involving sacrificial remains or sacred objects) only heightens the anguish amidst more shrieking and wordless despair. It fades down to a defeated murmur and a hovering hum which drift into the more optimistic dawn of ‘Hereafter’, which offers a glimmer of light and hope. It’s late-coming, but welcome.

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