AUSTRALIA HIDDEN SHOAL RECORDINGS HSR098 CD (2012)
Necks fans newly bereaved of their titanic attention spans will gleefully gravitate to this duo’s carefully crafted set of glazed and glacial miniatures, emigrants of Australian shores farthest from Sydney’s celebrated slow jazz trio. Nourished on a diet of Kranky, Rachels and their ilk, and mastered by arch-abstractionist Taylor Deupree, Gilded’s Terrane slowly sublimates sombre scenery into a subtle, hypnotic ambience (in the Brian Eno sense) devoid of excess emotion: its virtue lies in the vagueness of background music one doesn’t just filter out, but which adds warmth to any given scene.
Everywhere to be found is patient, rhythmic gradation: the accretion of new textural layers so subtle as to be almost imperceptible; so resonant as to be hypnotic; nature’s own lullabies celebrating botanical infancy. A sense of stillness-in-motion is evident throughout: in ‘Velar’ and ‘Cluttered Room’, skittering cymbal phrases assume a respiratory regularity, grounded by dazed and distant reverb, and gently tinkling waterfalls. A relative of Harold Budd’s plangent piano playing pops up here and periodically there: soft, sombre droplets prickling the still white surface of serenity, summoning up seasonal slowdown. Sun-drenched, freshly clipped lawns or the same spot bedded down with 6am snow.
Drama takes place behind doors closed underwater: in ‘Road Movie’ we encounter Raime’s painfully paced ‘Soil & Colts’ reborn as a carefree, countryside stroll – the former’s signature screech supplanted by a blasé banjo strum. The landscape remains but urgency increases as a cantering piano enters in ‘Tyne’, which subsides into a vinyl crackle as the bucolic drift resumes. Tightly bowed, clipped strings sing of serrated leaves of grass blown by gliding strings, finally submitting to a sedative haze heard through a morphine daze; subatomic magnifications of the millions of vibrations that constitute a single draw of the bow: a manner almost acousmatic in its interiority.
Gilded’s taste for variety is subtle but immanent: every track foregrounds a specific motif, pearling it patiently within the oyster. No attempt is made to stimulate the listener: attention is expected but not demanded, though it is certainly rewarded. Alternating appetites for activity and passivity provide the overarching structure.
If existence arises from the tension between opposing forces, then Terrane’s terrain is the unconscious realm behind the eyelids as they open and close. Even the album cover – a dense stratum of branches – gauzy and vascular: a detail of the network that delivers the essence of life itself. The image draws breath as freely as the music, driven but unperturbed by conscious motives. Tracks are generically titled after generalised objects and locations; the music illustrates natural processes common to both the body’s inner world and that of the organic world it inhabits. If you’ve nowhere you particularly need to be, then Gilded will show you there.