David Fyans is a sound artist from Scotland with a seriously underrated catalogue of experimental electronic music with a droney, textural slant. January’s Time in Bronze, a long-form generative piece made with a modular synth system ought to be among the must-listens of the year for ambient and experimental heads, but equally impressive and perhaps more worthy of attention in this moment is his first CD release for Amsterdam’s always reliable Moving Furniture Records, Trübhand.
“Trübhand”, a word that translates to mean “clouded/obscured hand” has, as the author notes, multiple connotations that relate to this collection in different ways. The saying “the one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing” comes to mind. One intuitive interpretation that arises from it is the obscured nature of the hands’ activity in the course of recording music and sound art such as this. Subtle modulations furrow an evolving soundscape out of a drone, and if the listener is not present for a live performance, it might not even occur to them that what they are listening to is not exactly an instrument being played per se. Two pieces comprise the album: “(Left Hand)”, “(Right Hand)”.
In any case, the album was inspired by a period of exile in Northern Germany; the depression of being away from home was worsened by the flatness and blandness of the landscape. Fyans would, at night, imagine mountains and valleys taking shape in it. These two pieces mirror Fyans’ nighttime flight of imagination– in both “(Left Hand)” and “(Right Hand)”, a steady drone is transformed through minute changes and sheer duration. “(Left Hand)” mines celestial calm, a slow flyby over rolling waves of grass, while “(Right Hand)” is a slow-burning dark ambient monster that scales jagged peaks.
Fantastic dronescaping from a master– can’t recommend it highly enough.
The name alone of The Way Home, the new full-length from Portland-based post-rock group Long Hallways contains multitudes. For Americans like myself, home has definitely been looking better. Even the city I call a second home is changing rapidly– easy-going old timers are getting edged out by hip new money, quality live music bills by dance nights and the hype-train mentality. Fingers are pointing, but at the end of the day the culprit is something at the core of our American ennui: if it’s different, it’s bad, the end. This struggle springs to mind intuitively when I listen to this surging, emotive, yet textural and thoughtfully-composed album from the Hallways (their first to be put out on vinyl), one of the most eclectic post-rock bands active these days. If you’re looking for an example of some evidence that Portland still puts out a fair amount of quality exploratory music, look no further…
The quiet-loud dynamic of third-wave post-rock can grip your heart with the best of them, provided the right musicians are at the helm. Daniel Staton’s scorching guitar tone and the thundering pulse of Nicholas Stott and Joseph Chamberlain’s rhythm section give “March of Knives” and “A Butterfly on the Battlefield” the epic feel of a race against time. But it’s Dayna Sanders’ slow-motion flourishes on keyboard and Elise Wong’s violin and cello that truly give it another dimension and hint at the unspoken story within– “Elegy Too Many” and “Crystal Forest” make that pretty clear. Josh Burd’s artwork, a misfit with bloodshot eyes rooted in place like a rickety house on a quiet street, fits the vibe perfectly.
For Portland readers: if you are curious to hear these songs live, you will want to be in attendance tonight at the Tonic Lounge at 8 pm for the 2017 NW Post-Rock Collective Showcase. Long Hallways will be joined by Volcanic Pinnacles, Human Ottoman, Seattle’s You May Die In The Desert, and A Collective Subconscious. It’s the album release party for The Way Home, too! Hope you can make it.
Robert Farrugia’s Slow Morning, for Archives, starts up, and ebbing drifts from synth, guitar, and piano crawl across the face of a vast, still seascape. This is a music for looking back, and looking back alone, seemingly.
The Maltese musician has taken much of inspiration from post-rock as well neo-classical and ambient; that showed on earlier efforts like Half-Light and it shows here, as well. Some techno-feels creep into “Pulses”, and deep, syncopated rumbles lend a mood akin to submerged electronica to the opener, “Currents”, but for the most part it’s gauzy, layered ambient– cloudy and meandering, but not directionless. There is a weightiness to it, a sense of being caught between two extremes, and not entirely sure of which to let take the lead. Put on the centerpiece track “Coastal”, an epic downcast-gazer for grey skies and whipping, chilly winds and you’ll see where I’m going with this. The closing track, the similarly elliptical and melancholic “Haze” is a collaboration between Farrugia, his brother Matthew on cello, and Archives label head Warmth. Kudos have to go too to Brian Young for the album art photography, which hits the texture of the album on the head perfectly in a visual form.
Really nice stuff from an artist who’s found his stride in a totally unique style of ambient music that ultimately holds you transfixed.
A cozy sonic journey more or less perfect for nighttime reminiscence: David Evans’ Suddenly Woken by the Sound of Stillness, off Flaming Pines. Nothing too moody or alarming… it’s an album of field-recordings made on a trip along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Suddenly Woken by mastered by Lawrence English.
The singularly comforting rhythm of the click-clack of wheels on tracks, distant music, and ghostly, submerged processed sounds evoke the sense impressions of the traveler drifting in and out of consciousness through the long nights. For a travelogue undertaking such as this, Suddenly Woken gives a notably vague sense of place– the journey was definitely not approached from an intellectualizing “ethnographic” slant. What makes the document so affecting is the way that it gives off the romance of traveling alone, but an abstract part of it hard to put into words, like getting unknowingly lulled in the repetitive sounds of a car or plane’s ambient environment. Evans noted that more than once in the trip, he would fall asleep, but then wake up because the train had came to a stop in the middle of the night: the “sound of stillness” roused him awake. Time passes differently when you’re in transit– something hard to put into words that Evans’ collage straightforwardly conveys.
An oneiric sound artifact, sensitive and pregnant with mystery, just like the choral samples and drone that close the ending section to “Irkutsk to Moscow”, endlessly planing.