Mapping the Ocean Deep

That Space Somewhere (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR321CD) from Lull, i.e. the wonderful Mick Harris who famously forsook the abrasive politicised noise of Napalm Death to move into the isolationist / dark ambient genre in 1990. I’d imagine it’s not too far-fetched to claim him as one of the primary creators from that golden period when the Sentrax label controlled our every thought and move, and the Kevin Martin compilation Ambient 4: Isolationism (on which Lull appeared) did much to bring this form of music to a wider set of portholes – assuming you buy into the popular metaphor which regards the listening audience as an ocean-going liner. It was certainly “new” to this listener in the 1990s, and one who has since done quite a bit of backfilling through investigation of back catalogues of similar tracts of droney bitterness, such as that other Harris project Scorn.

Today’s new item may be notable in at least two ways – for one thing, our man hasn’t made a record since 2008, Like A Slow River, which he did for Glacial Movements Records (the Italian label whose ambitions are to turn the entire world into an arctic waste). But this isn’t a “comeback” moment such as was attempted by The Pop Group – rather I get the impression that Harris has simply carried on ferrying his way down his own self-made Acherontian river regardless of which way the prevailing winds may blow in the ever-changing pop music world. “Lull is quite natural for me,” he confirms on the press release here. “Lull is purely something I can get lost in…drifting, just going into darkness.” I’d go further and say that he is probably one of those creators for whom the music keeps on flowing, even when it isn’t actually expressed as a CD release. That Space Somewhere might be perceived as just four possible snapshots from a never-ending torrent – or rather a frozen ocean – of aural activity.

Which brings me to second notable observation – the music feels much more “minimal” than it did in the 1990s, at some level I can’t fully account for. It’s still just as all-encompassing, like a deep tanker of oil in which one submerges one’s mental bathysphere, but somehow the root notes, the tone, the timbre (if these things ever meant anything to him) have been subtracted and attenuated that bit further, leaving us face to face with an even more awesome void. This could be a totally subjective impression, but if I am half-right one would like to wonder whether certain current trends in “minimalist” composition have started to seep into the ether. I doubt that Harris is about to be invited to join the Wandelweiser Group, but I would like to think a meeting between himself and Bruno Duplant would be a fruitful one and some common ground would be established. However, this being a Cold Spring Records release, it’s packaged to align with similar CDs by Llyn Y Cwn, and likewise makes use of the “ocean” metaphor in its intense digipak images. From 3rd January 2023.

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