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RESONANT EMBERS - V.A.

Edition Sonoro 001 . 2008





How much I like compilations, and certainly this one, things are never easy to review. I can make some general remarks about who's on it, what the underlying objective is in the music, pick a highlight, boo at a weak track and that's it. Compilations are certainly no easy task. On 'Resonant Embers' we have seven lengthy cuts of drone music. Six of them are by people who regularly deliver the sonic resonances for Vital Weekly such as Irr. App. (ext.), Jgrzinich, Ubeboet, Colin Potter, Paul Bradley and Andrew Liles, leaving us with the introduction of Maile Colbert with Tellemake as the only new artist on the block. Things drone away nicely, times seven. No weak brothers or sisters around this lot. But also no particular standout pieces or, and that's perhaps the weak point, nothing new under the ambient drone sun. Processed field recordings (are those church bells, mister Potter?), computerized software sound synthesis and otherworldly sounds from beyond imagination. All fine, but also all text book stuff for these people. It's not that they delivered yesterday's left-overs, au contraire I'd say, but it's a bit too much commonplace. If that doesn't bother you, than it's fine. It didn't bother me, since I like this kind of music anyway, so I thought it was a most pleasant release.

(frans de waard, vital weekly)



This compilation does not include a single line of explanation, nor it indicates a basic concept around which the artists involved have worked, and right now I'm not in the condition of surfing the web for clues. The names are known enough for the cognizant ones to keep the aerials up, though, and the record indeed delivers. Matt Waldron aka irr. app. (ext.) opens the show with a thunderous cross of ritualistic reminiscences constantly altered by buzzing accumulations and entrancing harmonics, a congregation of drunken whales attacked by amplified giant flies ending in sad decadence. John Grzinich - or jgrzinich if you will – places metallic tampering and inaccessible machinations in isolated faraway ambiences, a sonic frugality somehow exalted by the threatening reverberations of the environment where the event takes place. Ubeboet (Miguel Tolosa) daydreams of a better future, his painful harmonic superimpositions and poignant string fragments floating like sorrowful butterflies eliciting currents of deep spirituality and hopeless despair.

Colin Potter persuades us about the inevitable necessity of bells by extracting the essential juice of their metal and paralleling it with almost epic surges of willpower-annihilating chords, the whole thrown slightly off-centre by peculiar resonances that strengthen the muscle of the piece by rendering it more dissonant. Paul Bradley calls out a squad of guitar-elicited fireflies illuminating a cold evening with alluring pulsations and Fripp-ish brightness in what's probably the most easy-to-memorize track of the album (which, oddly, recalls Djam Karet's Suspension And Displacement), while Maile Colbert & Tellemake analyze the discoloration of vocal counterpoint and the androgynous essence of reappearance through a different routing of murmured discretion, sort of a re-embodiment of the evocative cycles heard in Akira Rabelais' Spellewawerynsherde. Finally, Andrew Liles' piano and electronics introduce a touching violin elegy which seems to represent an ode to the perpetuation of apprehension, yet it results as an angelic song.


(massimo ricci, touching extremes)




Resonant Embers compiles Paul Bradley and accomplices previously released through parent label, Twenty Hertz. Seven artists linked by a shared aesthetic (let’s call it "experimental") with differing takes: a harder outside of sound art and austere ambience with a soft centre of post-Romanticist melodic drones. First up, NWW collaborator, Matthew Waldron, re-cranks his irr. app. (ext.) vehicle for an discomfiting drive fuelled by a wierd mixture of dissonant effluvia. Inside “Whickering Mechanical Parapropalaehoplophorus” a slowly modulating sound hovers behind an up-close rattle and hum. Twisted moans and a buzz rendered with slapback echo (airplanes? Insect buzz?) infest the sound field. There ensues a woozy stagger attended by an ineffable feeling of fascinated discomfort.

There are more corroded metal shapes and post-Industrial wastelands on “Animate structures No.1”, over which environmental collagist jgrzinich scatters a windblown array of field recordings of high tension wires and rummagings from the blasted post-Soviet heath of his adoptive Estonia. His piece sounds less like electronic music than the inarticulate speech of nature’s dark heart.

More palatable musical soundscapery comes from Miguel Tolosa and project manager Bradley. Tolosa’s project Ubeboet offers in “Agone” an ecstasy of haunting ethereality, smartly smudged. Strings at a remove and sub-aqueous operatics whisper forth from within a carpet of delicate pads, a euphonic shimmer of drone guilded by a ghost violin. Tone-poetry in motion. The unjustly unsung Bradley seems lately to have gradually removed the acousmatic veils from his sounds to reveal their guitar-generated nature. He spools out an electraglide in blue of weaving guitar strata not far removed from Aidan Baker, current doyenne of drone-guitarscapism. “Kaleidoscope” is admittedly more synthetic, less gritty, but still imbued with textural detail cycling across the stereofield, further tones being twirled into a mix of pristine steel lightly blurred at the edges. In between, veteran Colin Potter in “Bella (direct current)” alchemises liquid drones from base metal (bells, actually), sounds swelling and relenting, hypnotically heaving. Bradley protegé, Maile Colbert, and mysterious accomplice Tellemake, spins her voice through a series of looping devices and VLF recordings, in a style somewhere twixt a less woozed-up Grouper and a more corporeal version of the vox-spectres from Akira Rabelais’ Spellewauerynsherde.

A mournful closure comes via doleful occasional black humorist, Andrew Liles, who plays it straight here; the breathy lilt of a violin steeped in Balkan noir emerges from some doom-laden low end-of-pianisms to unravel through ominous tolling. Liles’ “The Relentlessly Banal Landscape” strikes as a rather spare and sad affair, and fails to sound the right endnote for what proves to be a curate’s egg of a collection.


(alan lockett, e/i mag _ audio verite)




Edition Sonoro is the parallel label to Twenty Hertz, both of which are run by the British drone artist Paul Bradley. Resonant Embers is collection of artists who have crossed paths with Mr. Bradley over the years and may be delivering work for Edition Sonoro in the future. There's irr. app. (ext.), jgrzinich, Ueboet, Colin Potter, Bradley himself, Maile Colbert with Tellemake, and Andrew Liles. AQ's beloved bewilderer of sound Matthew Waldron returns to his irr. app. (ext.) moniker with a disorienting chorus for vibrating objects, chiming strings, and distant moans phasing in a tripped out sonic equivalent to a funhouse mirror. Another favorite comes by the way of jgrzinich, who layers together windswept clatter from multiple recordings from high tension wires and the post-Soviet crumbled landscape of his current home in Estonia. A cold, sodden atmosphere oozes from these turnbuckle creaks and (literally) post-industrial ambience.

Ubeboet is a newcomer to us, offering a majestic track of dark ambience haunted with distant strings and underwater operatic vocals. Colin Potter propagates a liquid drone from a series of harmonic belltones, which have all of the sublime power and angelic beauty of a Ligetti chorale. Paul Bradley constructs a series of interwoven guitar loops of midrange timbers that reflect similar ideas found in Aidan Baker's solo work. Maile Colbert flickers her voice through a series of looping devices and VLF recordings, recalling the early albums of Grouper but with Jarboe's vocal style instead. And finally, the comp is completed with a track from Andrew Liles, whose deeply minor chord piano keys and lilting gypsy violin have a noirish, horror film quality, perhaps in homage to Coil's lost soundtrack to Hellraiser?


(aquarius records)




A retinue of respected sound artists sit in a seditious huddle on Resonant Embers. The symbols of alterity they throw up ensure a continuous movement, but it's one that will annoy if your searching for grand gestures and conciliatory attitudes. This disc is more a matter of plentiful rustling, a series of discontinuous clunks, warbles, and gurgling irreducible to an identity, meaning, or any sort of fixed difference as such. Works meander and are engagingly minor; fragments and instances rather than products.

"Whickering mechanical parapropalaeholophorus" has a boozy lurch with a spirit of unsustainable rapture, abjection, and trance. The piece is like looking through grit-blasted glass; inside one sees the penchant of irr. apt. (ext.) for polluted, post-Industrial textures, excessive but precise, as they demur before corrosive metallic incursions and swooping levels of dense distortion.

Over the course of the album, relationships shift on a frequent basis, points occur when there is concord in discord, before the behemoth shoots off into another phase. Certain tracks present a series of rising challenges: among them, Maile Colbert summons a vague fulguration, a bluish shot with rose, encapsulating expansive yearning and unresolved tension with the briefest of melodic strokes. Its chorus of singing electrons and multiplying resonant shimmers reach out to and suggest the arch of the sky like a majestic ceiling above them, while at the same time providing a fine foil for awakening ancestral voices. In this same manner, Andrew Liles coaxes together a surprisingly spare piece, as a breathy violin passage curls through ominous, tolling arpeggios and delicate metallic ricochets.

Taking the opposite approach, others such as Jgrzinich opt to push one back into a corner. These pieces gibber at the edges of the known, sometimes sounding electronic, at other points like garbled constructions of nature. Both moves prove successful - each accommodates and subverts subliminal inter-communication in equal measure, as these artists chase a mood that recedes into the distance just as they start to catch it.


(max schaefer, furthernoise)




Variations on "sound evolving in time": A day dream soundtracked by a ghost violin.


Edition Sonoro present a collection of artists in this rich compilation which showcases a variety of contemporary approaches to creating audio art. On several occasions I tried to describe this record in conversation with friends. The word 'spectral' came to mind. In her book "A Provisional History of Spectral Music" (2000) Julian Anderson wrote, "music is ultimately sound evolving in time". This record shows a handful of the many variations these evolutions can take.

The opening track by irr. App involves a mix of sounds that are placed at different distances in the mix. A slowly modulating sound hovers in the background whilst drier sounds rattle and twinkle in the foreground. Above this a twisted voice moans in places, which gives way to a buzzing noise that fills the mix with its odd slapback-style decay. A haunting intro.

The next track by Jgrzinich uses loose, brittle metallic sounds in the high end with reverberating mids and lows to create an atmosphere which moves from tense and nightmarish to dreamy and relieved. Track three by Ubeboet starts with gentle pad-like tones. A pleasant shimmering drone builds, to this is added a delicate melody which comes and goes like a day dream soundtracked by a ghost violin.

Colin Potter's track is a minimal drone piece using glassy, bell-like tones. The sounds slowly rise and drop in volume creating a hypnotic, drifting body of sound. Paul Bradley's track follows a similar approach, but the tones used sound more synthetic, and the pace of development a little faster. The way in which the looped sounds move slowly in the stereo picture stops the piece from stagnating. The addition of electric guitar in the second half changes the colour. Clean notes and washes of controlled fuzz make the track complete.

The collaboration between Maile Colbert and Tellemake starts with a soft drone which gives way to some peculiar sounding synthesised female voices. These voices are filtered and cut and re-arranged creating a dreamy rhythmic texture which is supplemented by pure guitar-like tones.

The final track by Andrew Liles is a minor key affair. A doom-laden piano plays a simple, spooky melody which leads to some eastern influenced strings accompanied by some quiet vibes. There is a definite air of sadness to the melody, which becomes quite like a film soundtrack as it ends with a synth pad.

(barry cullen, tokafi)