"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Heavyweight Boxing

Not so much art work as art works. And less a music label, more an art gallery-cum-craft shop. The art, and craft, of Time Released Sound’s Colin Herrick, curator/artist/artisan, is evident in each meticulously worked audio-visual assemblage. In April this SF one-man band trailed the Chocolate Box series, a set of six discs each packaged in ‘a small 3.75” square, hinge lidded and greatly modified chocolate box’ to be issued in pairs over the Spring period. Note: looks like they’re all gone, but other editions are available for those for whom music is the star and artwork supporting cast.

It’s a nice conceit - one that taps, presumably ironically, into the connotations of ‘chocolate box’ (‘Chocolate box art originally referred literally to decorations on chocolate boxes. Over the years the terminology has developed and is now applied broadly as a descriptive, but often pejorative, term to describe paintings and designs that are warm, idealistic and sentimental.’), as if seeking to reclaim a space for such an orientation in art/music.

David Newlyn’s Ruins apparently came from “demolition materials” from TRS’s office walls. Newlyn’s form - on Mobeer, Cotton Goods, Boltfish, Symbolic Interaction and U-Cover – primes us for a heady fix of neoclassical and light electronics, guitars and field recordings. Delicate deep flow, somewhat maudlin, as is his wont, heart-string tugs a-plenty, all doused in ambient wash, though this seems a more pared back Newlyn, finding a more spatial string to his bow. Two tracts of keening strings, melancholic swells and oneiric tonefloat - receiving transmissions from Aquarius, who enthuse: “…hazy and gauzy and washed out, long layered drones softly undulate over all manner of mysterious field recordings, delicate piano melodies, buried operatic vocals, foot steps, voices, children playing, all beneath a fog of long tranced out drones and looped string shimmer, finishing with some surprising drum-driven distortion.”

Perhaps most intriguing of the first pair is Taskerlands, which opens to reveal two delicacies of psyche-tinged folk-flecked ambience from Michael Tanner (Plinth), the vintage music box-wrangling man behind Collected Machine Music, and David Colohan of psych-folkists United Bible Studies. The project name is drawn from the haunted Victorian mansion of 1972 BBC TV drama, The Stone Tape, which explored the theory of residual haunting – that ghosts are recordings of past events made by the natural environment, images somehow captured and re-broadcast by physical materials. Still a suggestive narrative for this music 40 years on, Taskerlands is not especially creepy, but the spaces of its two 20-minutes tracts of spatial meandering resonate as if haunted with glimpses of lightly treated guitar, dark piano ruminations, bass clarinet flutings, and “frequencies” (says the credits). ‘…softly smoldering sonic rumination, slipping from dense tangles of abstract Appalachia to brooding low end swirl, flickering melodic drift to dark distorted droned out minor key dirges, from haunting hypnotic thrum, to washed out hazy psychedelic shimmer,’ thanks again to Aquarius.

Belgian Bernard Zwijzen is behind the third box, Four Peaks, under his Sonmi451 alias. Where his earlier Star Atlas, soared into the far reaches of the solar system, this title seems to point to more earthbound, albeit steepling, entities (titles “Eiger,” “Matterhorn,” etc). The terrain is nearly silent, sometimes reduced to single notes extended across remote pulses. A Fluid writer says: “Remember while listening that Elger is not just a peak in Switzerland, it’s also a crater on the moon. Which is fitting for an album that, while reportedly made with terrestrial equipment, is so celestial in form.” Actually, he says Elger but discogs say it’s Eiger - insufficient to warrant calling the whole thing off, though. Keeping it simple, kindred spirit blog bloke Peter van Cooten reckons: “The four peaks (Eiger, Grossglockner, Matterhorn and Tre Cime Di Lavaredo) are conquered in just over 35 minutes of beautiful, crackling atmospheric sounds.”

Next, Georgian sound artist Rezo Glonti flouts his unheard-of status with The Diary Of The Second Officer, a sort of document of an imagined crewman, into which persona he projects himself, ranging across various locations with recorder, laptop and keyboard, the ensuing conceit making for an involving audio-travelogue. Field recordings were captured from road trips – airports in Istanbul and Singapore, the cityscape of Kagoshima, as well as Georgian sites – Batumi Botanical Garden and a village, Chibati. The “Moved By” sequence which punctuates the set is both a smart pun, and an eloquent testament to the notion that places and movement make music. “Moved By (Airplane)” sets the background noise of flying to minimal electronics, high in atmosphere, while “Moved By (Car)” harnesses the thrum of the eponymous vehicle’s tyres as low-end ground to a resonant keyboard figure. “Kagoshima” is stately and serene Eno-esque drift over fertile rustling field sounds. Elsewhere there are hints of everything from GAS to Porn Sword Tobacco in the wooze of these winsome bleary driftscapes, with a nebulae of electronics + field captures swathing minimalist motifs in a gauzy patina, as if shortwave radio transmissions of off-world elevator music. An artfully conceived and realized collection linking analogue and glitch, environmental and electronic.

LMYE-bees with an eye for obscure Frisian lexis may recall Festive 50 pick, Deislieper. Next day Jan and Romke Kleefstra’s trio with Sytze Pruiksma added Christiaan Kuitwaard on guitar, and went on to record Sinneplakken. Dutch ambient blog-bloke PVC blogs linguistically: “I asked Romke about the meaning of the word “Sinneplakken”, as this is not an existing Frysian word, but a combination of “Sinne” (Sun) and “Plakken” (places). “Sinneplakken” could refer to the spots on the ground in the wood where the sun shines through the branches of the trees. The word is used in the track ‘Blackstil Wetter’, referring to spots, or speckles, on someone else’s hands.” The whole thing is closely themed with Frisian culture, the box collaged with Frisian Vikings, containing Frisian soil, two bags of Black Frisian tea, alluding to the Kleefstras’ stern indigenous sonic spirit. Compared to earlier Kleefstra works, it has a rougher, unpolished feeling, “steeped in those shorter days and longer nights of mysterious northern climes.” One Kleefstra to scrape guitar, one Kleefstra to intone poetry, and a Pruiksma to rattle percussion behind them. Sparse chimings, reticent plucks and muted strums and pulses. Vocal delivery is just barely out of grasp, a form of spoken word that eludes the non-Frisian speaker but adds a vaguely unsettling timbre complementing the doleful intonations, swells and swirls and static, FX blur and random percussion bouts, and soft psych-squalls of a strange series of soundscapes that elide from barely there abstract minimal to folk drift to slow postrock smouldering.

One of the most elaborate designs is saved for final chocolate indulgence, Quietus Gradualis, on which Bartosz Dziadosz (Pleq) gets together with Spheruleus, Harry Towell to his music mates, resuming a communion last seen on Towell’s own Audio Gourmet, covered here. Spheruleus’ “guitar meanderings and pseudo stringed ambiance,” is subtly layered in Pleq’s “slightly crunchy and somewhat droney top coating,” - the twain having been, incidentally, separately LMYE-ed and igloo-ed. The first, “Apologue” assembles a hushed body of guitar drone and strings to to congregate in a sort of doleful hovering post-chamber music woven into crepitating neo-folk flecked with electronic filigree. It sprawls in tenebrous minor key meandering, building without building with a GY!BE-esque brooding intensity that somehow reaches climax without crescendo, simply letting the field noise gradually subside leaving strings unadorned. No quiet-loud here - just quiet in varying densities. The soft noise-wreaths/wraiths render the strings time-released in the sense of being imported from distant times. “Vestiges” is even better - muted fretboard finger-slides rippling through a miasma of looping string-swathes, quasi-symphonic, tintinnabulating in magisterial sunblind shimmer.

All in all, some heavyweight boxing from the talented Mr Herrick.

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Anonymous said...

David Newlyn isn't Library Tapes. David Wenngrenn is.

k-shan said...

I liked. Quietus Gradualis, Pleq and Spheruleus. Nice progression of texture and intensity.

al said...

Thanks for putting me right on this, Anon. Haven't been minding my Davids - apologies to both, Newlyn and Wenngren alike. Will edit the post to remove confusion.

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