On a Southerly Wind

Matthew Philip Hopkins
Nocturnes
UK VITTELLI RECORDS VIT002 LP (2014)

It has come to my attention that it’s hot in Australia: so hot that over the course of several evenings in late 2013 the infamous temperature pervaded the apartment and recording equipment of Australian sound maker Matthew Philip Hopkins – erstwhile father to a handful of cassettes and CDRs – as he peeled out late night loops with his guitar and pedal collection, generating warm undercurrents in dream-state pulses every bit as grey as the vinyl the Vittelli label has wisely pressed it all to. Workaday title notwithstanding, the Nocturnes are as indistinct as faded sepia, the three loop-based pieces taking their place alongside William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops and Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works II as exponents of idyllic inner retreat: doleful delta waves echoing to and from nowhere in a state of uneasy anaesthesia. Delicate-if-deliberate textural overlays intrude upon this narcosis like voices encroaching from the conscious realm, increasingly so towards the excoriating conclusion.

The call to awaken commences in the mirage-like opener; the blood-warm arterial pulse of which is cooled by the passing calls of distant ships in the night and conspicuous tinkering with respiratory equipment. ‘Nocturne 2’ is a darker sibling with a lifespan reflecting its incommodious health. Running to seventeen minutes, ‘Nocturne 3’ spans side two, swirling lopsidedly into life as a faint reminder of the disorienting ‘Rectum’ scene that opens Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible, but instead of the cold penetration of blasting techno, this lurching whorl is agitated and near consumed by a bacterial mass of odd mechanical blips, grinds, squeals and scratches. Our interest is sustained throughout by the tension between the restful and the restless, which prompts one still to replay in the hope of a sounder rest on the next spin.

And lest we suspect Hopkins of superfluous sincerity, we need only glance at the accompanying booklet of recipes for ‘Listening Events’: in one passage he instructs listeners to ‘Rub forehead, finger bubble-wrap’ Spin globe with sweaty hand. Ingest elixir made from cicadas, sirens and strepsils. Enact erratic breathing routine’ and so on; which antics add a further bemusing layer to the formula.

Compound Eye
Journey From Anywhere
AUSTRIA EDITIONS MEGO eMEGO 181 2 x LP (2013)

Journey From Anywhere is made up of a set of arresting, ambient-drone improvisations that mercifully eschew ‘chill out’ tendencies by virtue of undulating synth waves upon powerful riptides that tug the passive listener into an uneasy and soon fascinated attitude. No surprises at finding Coil/Psychic TV veteran Drew McDowall (involved in Musick to Play in the Dark, Moon’s Milk in Four Phases, Astral Disaster and others.) ghosting the noise machines for this recording project in cahoots with Tres Warren of Psychic Ills. The pair improvised these four sides in up to as many sporadic sessions between 2010 and 2012, enlisting their shadowy devices to transpose the varied and variegated whimsies of each occasion. While enigmatic and meditative, the pieces communicate moods quite indefinable, a sense magnified by a recurring tendency to discontinue and reprise; a satisfying contrast lying at each point of transition.

There’s a welcome invasiveness to the rounded, black throb of ‘Archaic Atmosphere’: its eerie keyboard modulations hatching tingling clouds of black exhaust; more so in the space lab fluctuations of ‘Cosmic Exhaust: The Selector (Cut-Up Composition)’, which offer our weary nerves as much comfort as insects moving under skin. These stretches are offset by four, shorter, more meandering sections that include the creeping air-soup of the two-part ‘Open Interval’, which is not without resemblance to early Ghost Box material. But to my mind everything coalesces around and showcases the funereal harmonium drone of the eighteen-minute title (and centre-) piece, which rests mournfully, suspended upon a grey night wind in the dead of winter. Not unlike the quieter climes visited in Coil’s or even Cyclobe’s longer form works, these pieces should provide listeners adequate haunting material for the darker nights of those colder seasons.

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