Julius Aglinskas / Apartment House
LITHUANIA Music Information Centre Lithuania MICL CD107 CD (2020)
Did somebody say piano and atmospheres? Yes, please. Here’s a generous serving from Apartment House, the British experimental music ensemble, playing material by composer/producer/audio engineer Julius Aglinskas recorded by him at Studio One at Goldsmiths University of London. The project was initiated by Anton Lukoszevieze, a man with a close interest in Aglinskas’ work. Aglinskas himself is described by the press release as standing out from his contemporaries “…due to his strikingly different understanding of academic music”. Okay… What is so different, or indeed striking, about his understanding of academic music other than ambiguously evidencing this by pointing out his experiences working with an “emerging rock band” or contributing to Keymono and Zalvarinis recordings (both groups play variants of pop) is not explained.
The piece is described as “…ambient and nostalgic…” by the rather excitable press release. Despite the presence of ample quantities of high-end studio reverberation, I would not describe this record as ambient nor nostalgic particularly, unless you consider the current zeitgeist-bothering electronic music genre called “Nostalgia” – a term which makes me think of Boards of Canada on holiday in McMurdo Station or somewhere similarly cold and remote while drinking Panda Pops and scarfing Spangles, Opal Fruits or Pacers while fiddling with the tracking on an old Betamax video player – which this is absolutely not an example of. Having said that, there is some pleasing tape warble and/or vibrato effect on the keyboards in section eleven. Furthermore, citing parallels in Aglinskas’ music with Erik Satie and Harold Budd seems not a little egotistical if not totally irrelevant.
But let’s move beyond my issues with whoever wrote the press release; Daydreamer is one 73 and a half minute piece divided into twelve sections. The music seems rather accessible to this listener; not in itself a bad thing but if this is “ambient”, then this is ambient music for upper middle class dinner parties to be used in the same way that the host might attempt to match the dessert wine with pudding. I prefer to think of it as piano music with augmentations. In space. Ha ha no just joking. Apartment House is an ensemble of ten players, most of whose parts in this particular composition are there to offer support to the piano line played here by Sirwan Rhys. Gordon MacKay and Mira Benjamin are the violinists, Bridget Carey is on viola, Lukoszevieze plays cello, Alan Thomas is apparently an e-guitarist – sorry, what is an “e-guitar”? Do you mean “electric guitar”? – Simon Limbrick is on percussion, Kerry Yong plays electric keyboard, Gavin Morrison on bass flute and Heather Roche on bass clarinet.
The piece begins naturally enough; a pretty, melodic piano line meanders around the key signature, (which appears not to change throughout the whole piece, although I haven’t checked for sure so don’t quote me on that). From the third section onwards things darken a little due to some processing on the faders being introduced by way of the bus faders on the Calrec mixing console. Section seven begins to move into heavily processed “post-rock” territory momentarily, which although not to the detriment of the piece, does make me wonder what a whole 73 minutes of this approach might sound like. In order to support the piano, Aglinskas has cleverly written the instruments’ parts to weave in and around it while occasionally making it very difficult for the listener to identify the usually familiar timbral characteristics of those instruments. This seems to me more likely to be written into the composition rather than an “effect” or process used during the recording process. Either way, it is a device I enjoyed very much; where there is subtle power and tension in the material it is this that creates it, I think.
At the time of writing, I’m excited to hear about the upcoming Apartment House / Aglinskas record with Jim O’Rourke which looks a fine proposition and a bold move forward, potentially. Perhaps Daydreamer was the necessary dry run.