Sunday, 4 July 2010

Atmospheric Conditions

A weekend spent in company of albums sent by Daniel Crokaert and Christoph Heemann, both of whom are hereby thanked kindly.

MATT SHOEMAKER – The Sunken Plethora Consumes All

I smiled when reading these words describing Shoemaker’s sound art within the promo’s sleeve: “barely relying on models generated by his predecessors or current peers”. That’s absolutely fallacious: there’s a lot of things here that one could associate to other people and records of this area. Organum, Irr. App. (Ext.), Jim Haynes to name just three, and – get this – even Popol Vuh-like phantoms somewhere. What’s true instead is that this man reveals himself to be an artist who can organize sonic sources quite smartly, the result being a record that offers enigmas and symphonious concreteness in equal doses. Starting from the natural field recordings – very beautiful ones, admittedly – of the initial “Hovering” the composer leads us through a thick undergrowth of drone and resonant clangor without falling in the canons of shameful imitation, always setting the listener in a frame of mind between perplexed and spellbound (this reviewer fell asleep during the first headphone try). The development of “The Apneist” transits across stunning static mirages blemished by metropolitan traces (and perhaps the moans of a didgeridoo, but – again – it’s all very well done). By the time we have arrived at the final stages with “Hallucination Pool” – possibly the most dramatic piece - and the title track (the sinisterly moribund tolling at the beginning of the latter is exactly the thing that was needed) the music has gradually become an established component in the neighboring environment while managing to nourish an invisible inside quaking in a much more effectual way than what was imagined at the outset. (Mystery Sea)

JAMES MCDOUGALL – Dispossession Of Periphery

Australian McDougall is also active under the Entia Non moniker, but I had never met his work before listening to this record. It’s a noteworthy opening encounter, the music repeatedly approaching flawlessness (according to this writer’s current disposition, and always exclusively concerning this genre). Like the large majority of the artists working with processed field recordings and ultra-low frequencies, McDougall did not invent a new way of doing things. Still, it is much better when a musician accomplishes an emotionally involving result by utilizing known means as an adjunct to their personal sensibility than attempting to astound the audience via techniques, sounds and tricks that might sound innovative at first, only to reveal an absolute poverty of genuine compositional ideas. The man handles the classic features of unfathomable atmospheres that an authentic, insightful critic would call “organic” – rustling noise, subaqueous shuddering, preternatural reverberations and (especially) throbbing dilations of rumbling emanations – within a precise scheme that allows us to forget about what’s happening around and just enjoy a persuasive cerebral rubdown. Some of these drones possess a “subterranean choir” quality that strikes at various levels of depth, “Porcelain Hull” and “Pallid Lantern” among the favourite episodes in that logic. The matters coming from the real world are so well masked and employed that recognizing them is perceived as a pleasure, not an aggravation. Propagations of vibes that literally ask to be incorporated by our systems, deployed with artful intelligence. (Mystery Sea)


A Norwegian multimedia artist heavily influenced – as most people working in this field – by his immediate surroundings, whose voices are blended with actual instruments to constructs cinematic glorifications of indistinct panoramas bathed in cavernous reverbs. Let’s anticipate the verdict and notify that this release didn’t really convince me, despite several moments of seemingly undying stillness that might work much better if they were left alone. “Alone” in this case means that the complementary appendages are too obvious and recurrent, with particular regard to a surplus of liquid elements (at the risk of repeating myself, it’s about time that the use of flowing waters on disc gets seriously restricted by some kind of controlling organism), vastly resounding metals and roaring noises from the Earth’s uterus that sound quite stereotyped and shared with at least 20/25 titles from this label, and I’m being charitable. That said, the drones concocted by Paulsen are often rather impressive, especially when the pulse is enriched by what sounds like lingering clouds of Tibetan bowls and other additional harmonic components. Had it been entirely so, the record would have functioned just fine as a mind-enhancing background, without pretenses of sorts. As it stands, it is a collection of mere atmospheric gradations tending to mystifying (?) obscurities, lacking a consistent design and impoverished by a number of commonplaces relative to this sonic subdivision (which, on a second thought, actually thrives on the routines of fake enlightenments, meditational ostentation and apparently profound, yet desperately one-dimensional concepts for its large part). Not considering this, Paulsen’s stuff feels honest. A good starting point for potential betterments. (Mystery Sea)


This vinyl edition documents an audiovisual installation whose premiere occurred in 2005 at the Horkunst Festival in Erlangen, Germany. The analysis of assorted ambiences constitutes the essential groundwork, human presence ebbing and flowing throughout. The rest is reticent whirring and mesmeric stasis (courtesy Christoph Heemann): not too much to recount, if not in a merely descriptive vein based on the sensations experienced. Remote allusions to the city, chatting people in a hall, unremitting severe frequencies that above a certain volume level make my room’s loose parts tremble quite a bit. While I’m playing this, a thunderstorm is breaking the silence of an awfully hot Sunday, and the combination of real and recorded essences works rather well. As the urban landscapes appear again somewhere on the first side, a sense of desolation – accompanied by the personal consternation related to another upcoming week spent amidst insipid things of which I don’t care a iota about – colours the general temperament, soon replaced by the mantra sung by a choir of crickets sustained by a splendidly blurred electronic monody. At one point in the second part some echoing steps, an awesome drone and the faraway rumble outside the window put your writer “in the zone” for a good couple of minutes. This reciprocation and merging of brain-numbing inviolability and suggestions of regular life heard far afield is the main characteristic of this album, an unpretentious display of ascetic linearity containing infectious memorabilia. (Streamline, distributed by Drag City)