Performing as Solinca, French guitarist Nicolas Guérin describes his Ostium I as his “first guitar ambient album”, while also crediting himself with “improvised composition” in the credits. He takes his instrument into the studio where he can add bowing actions and effects, and these moody-melodious tunes are the result. It’s good to hear some structure in this genre of music instead of content which is 90% process-based droning, and Guérin doesn’t lack for technical proficiency on the guitar, but I can’t say that Solinca’s gift for melody is especially distinguished, and the overall production is just too smooth for me. The tunes become maudlin, introverted. An unchallenging, under-performed record, lacking in substance. From 30 April 2019.
Unwritten Rules Of A Ceaseless Journey (CRÓNICA 148-2019) was commissioned by a dance troupe (Ballet Teatro) and intended to be used for their dance-drama Revoluções. The resultant dreary slab of electronics and field recordings was created by Haarvöl (the trio of Fernando José Pereira, Joao Faria and Rui Manuel Vieira) with Xoán-Xil López. Some thought has at least gone into the titles of these three 15-minute exercises in tedium, in which the “journey” is structured as a movement from “utopian” to “trauma”, and the music attempts to shift its gears accordingly in line with these titles. But it’s just empty laptop drone, its vacuity disguised by liberal use of reverb effect. From 15 April 2019.
Perplexing record called Undulate (SOFA SOFA572) by the Danish sound artist Niklas Adam. I was wrong-footed from the get-go by this oddity. One of the two long tracks contains the phrase “percussion solo”, and what with SOFA specialising in improvisation records half the time, I misled myself into thinking this was a very strange drum solo set. Instead, it’s apparently done by computer programming, with the aim of building self-generating music structures. There’s some printed text on the inside which doesn’t really explain anything, although it looks like computer code, and may explain something of how his routines are built. His printed phrase “the horror at the prospect of a number multiplied manyfold grinding at the door” is especially poignant, since my poor brain can’t get a purchase on these illogical, disconnected sounds, floating in a sea of white space with no apparent meaning. Niklas Adam’s aim is to set us free from the “traditional patterns…of rational thinking”; but he seems to do this by denying human thought altogether, and letting the remorseless logic of the machine take control. I don’t feel liberated at all. From 15 April 2019.
Last heard from Israeli electronicist Yair Etzony with his Deliverance album, which we found to be “bleak and evocative”, but lacking in energy and drive. Yair is here today as one half of Maps and Diagrams, with Tim Diagram, and their Azurescens (FALSE INDUSTRIES FISH01) is a collection of instrumental pieces released in a hand-made cover. It’s a tad more upbeat than Deliverance, but aimless; there seems to be no point to any of these meandery digital layer-fests, which lack musical development and simply wallow in meaningless textures and shapes. His solo record for same label, Ingress (FALSE INDUSTRIES 025), is much more depressing and dismal; it’s supposed to represent something of his own personal depressive state since moving to Berlin, becoming ill, and meeting new people in Helsinki. Even his production method has become more minimal, apparently. I prefer the coldness of Ingress to the false optimism of Azurescens, but even so it’s a largely undistinguished set of over-long droners, long on atmosphere but very short on ideas. Despite learning Yair’s moving back-story to Ingress, there is hardly any emotional truth to the music. From 15th April 2019.
We have enjoyed moments of previous Celer (Will Long) releases, but today I’m finding Xiexie (TWO ACORNS 2A15) an over-long chore. Two discs of endlessly looping slow ambient drone inspired, it seems, by his travels in China. It seems to have been raining perpetually during his sojourn, even one track title remarks on the rain, and that rain has seeped into every note on the album. It’s a perpetual loop of a scene from Blade Runner. The sleeve is covered with grey tourist photos of incredible banality, and his press release notes find deep personal significance in his every gesture, no matter how trivial. Even the music aggrandises this self-centred take on life, providing a quasi-heroic soundtrack for meandering around a foreign city. From 15th April 2019.