Terra Incognita / Seeing Shadows

Noted William St Hugh in 2020 with his Weasels Devour The Sun album, an exemplary slab of dark and slow drone. Follow-up today is Terra Former (NO LABEL), CDR of 13 tracks, “maybe a bit darker” according to its creator who sent us a copy from Dallas (although he’s originally from Fairhaven MA). He’s aiming for a “neo-classical” vibe with his string and horn sounds, which I assume are produced by sophisticated digital keyboards, and he skilfully blends these semi-orchestral scapes with his more familiar ambient tones. While still proceeding with the same slow and unhurried pace as Weasels for the most part (the dense and agitated ‘Cascades’ is one exception), this time St Hugh exhibits more concern with melody, and every other track delivers a strong and convincing tune, alternated with the more atmospheric episodes (‘Diluted’ is one strong example of the latter). It’s also worth observing his brevity; most cuts clock in around the 2-3 minute zone, some as short as 90 seconds. This is a welcome change to many releases in the dark-ambient drone stakes, whose creators often insist on 12-15 minutes duration as minimum requirement to make their points. Tree roots cover image, and certain allusive track titles, all hint at geo-physical and ecological themes, as does the overall title, and Terra Former could perhaps be read as an impressionistic non-scientific soundtrack for the formation of land masses. (02/02/2021)

Blanc Sceol duo from UK experimenting with music, sound art and field recordings…generally their aim with their body of work is very much integrated with the environment, and their projects don’t necessarily always result in physical recordings, shading into performance art, events, happenings, and like that. Images and descriptions on their website of past endeavours opens another world of pastoral genius, strange costumes, odd rituals, country walks turning into eye-opening experiences, workshops, and so forth. The Spirit Box (TQN-aut 61) record is intriguing on its own terms, but makes even more sense when plugged into the context of the shared visions of Hannah White and Stephen Shiell (last heard with his Sonance release for LOR in 2019). From their slightly fanciful description printed on the back cover of this single 40:00 min piece, they create an impression of strange sounds floating around on radio waves, in the ether, or even somewhere in the labyrinth of the world wide web. All they need do is tune in, act as human receivers for these signals. What ends up captured on the disc is a mix of music, voices, and unknown sounds combining to create fleeting glimpses of something rich and strange, served up in short and incomplete fragments, elliptical and puzzling. It’s also low-key and quiet, requiring an attentive radar scan and ear-trumpet for best results. Aided by Charlotte Wendy Law (film-maker, visual and sound artist from Dartmoor) and James Worse (Melbourne artist who has made numerous odd records with bizarre titles like The Hexispoasal Gloonpipe), this is a tiny gem – small intimate sounds being used to foster and sustain a truly magical atmosphere. (04/02/2021)