Nigel Samways first came our way in 2014 with the Nuclear Beach record on his own Ephre Imprint, an enchanting dream-like record which we recall with great fondness. His Temple of the Swine (CATHEDRAL TRANSMISSIONS CT38) was sent to us on 5th October 2015, just two days after its release. The insert prints the track titles – quite romantic descriptions of landscapes, vistas, and journeys – and doesn’t give much else away, apart from indicating “all sound constructed by N. Samways”. It’s a gorgeous and slow-moving sojourn in a beautiful fantasy world.
We are sent a lot of “soundscaping” records where the atmosphere is grim and oppressive…evidently the artistes in question prefer it that way, being of a melancholic temperament or of a pessimistic bent. Or perhaps it’s just that much easier to create depressing, gloomy, drone music. It’s therefore quite a relief to hear and enjoy a sound-scape which is uplifting and optimistic all the way through, without once sinking into vapidity, New Age posturing, nor empty kitsch. Temple of the Swine also manages to preserve an aura of mystique, a mysterious atmosphere which obtains for the full length of its playing…we never quite find out where we are or what we’re doing here. If we could take the opening moments of the first episode of The Prisoner, where Number Six’s bewilderment and astonishment are at their peak, then put these moments on repeat play, we might end up with an experience like this album.
What a watery, languid, multi-faceted drone…there’s not much substance to the gossamer sound that I can usefully pass on, and to do so might even threaten to break the spell, but there are looping elements, traces of field recordings, and a patina of distortion that is used to distance the listener to just the right degree. That effect, if overused or carelessly deployed, can simply seem awkward or contrived; but Samways uses it with just the right degree of nuance. The result is like viewing pictures of an enchanted land beamed back to us in uncertain, flickering images; but then I hesitate to liken it to a faded cine-film, which is another overdone effect these days, in both TV and cinema.
My sense is that Samways is onto something quite personal and profound, that is worth exploring; it’s certainly beautiful to listen to. Last time I proposed a collaboration with Xela, and today I bring Ashtray Navigations into the frame; albeit an incarnation of Ashtray long since passed, when he used to record his music on decaying cassette tapes to produce effects not unlike this. Many thanks to Nigel for sending this.