Hanetration – Murmurist EP (2014)

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It’s not unusual these days to listen to music that expresses its tiredness of modernity and the certain rituals and habits we become locked into, day in and day out; it’s a fairly universal desire to not be constrained by the limitations of working hours and the daily grind, all of it feeling so meaningless and soul-destroying. Hanetration’s latest EP Murmurist is not the first to tackle this theme and certainly won’t be the last to do so, but his unusual take on IDM and Ambient sound design makes this release just a little different from the rest.

Opener “Morning” rises slowly as we come to, warped and distorted drone lines making minimal progress in these early and dim hours. They shift and swell over one another gently, slowly and surely dispelling the darkness that’s accumulated through the night as well as coming to terms with the prospect of the day ahead. There’s a definite melancholy expressed here, one that longs to stay in bed for a little longer and not have to get out for work, but the minimal beats that eventually emerge cement the reality of the situation and we have to soldier on. “Begin” is where the covers are finally kicked off and the foreground drone sequences are put to the wayside temporarily, with light glitch rhythms and tympanic miscellaneous electronica rolling round and round forming the repetitive heart of the piece. These habitual motions pause and dim briefly near the halfway mark, a slight divot or hiccup in the usual routine that disturbs us briefly but we return to the loop soon enough.

The day speeds past in a blur of uneventful and meaningless activity in the 37 second interlude of “Fly”, separating the two halves of the EP with its hollow and brainless tapping; nothing of merit has happened in the hours that we fill between sleeps and this highlights that strongly. The painful “Wither” returns those melancholic, warbling drone lines from before, spinning out slowly and miserably as we feel our life-force slowly dribbling away and the distinct lack of energy and enthusiasm we have for continuing this mindless enterprise. It’s heavy and mournful and perhaps the most downtrodden track. Lastly, closer “Sundown” comes around entirely too quickly, another day melting away. It’s by far the most evocative and interesting piece for me, supplementing glowing drones with an almost tribal pseudo-melody, a thin and hesitant, jerky riff creeping out of the tired and mechanical ritual we resume before bedtime. There’s a deep tiredness and resignation here as the drones become overwhelming, thrumming in their rich crescendo as the bliss of sleep washes over us, ready to restart the cycle all over again.

I like this EP a lot; it feels a lot more consistent and relatable than his last effort on Timelapse as well as being rather more fully formed from a conceptual standpoint. Whilst there’s nothing especially unique in the theme that’s not really a valid criticism, especially when the music itself is rather unusual and so thoughtfully crafted. The interplay between the wishful, sad drones that yearn for something more and the mechanistic, deliberate rhythms of the daily routine is beautifully played out as the story of the EP unfolds, and since it’s free and only 20 minutes long I can’t think of a valid reason to not listen to this gorgeous little number.

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Richard Ginns – Fall, Rise (Twice Removed Records, 2014)

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Richard Ginns made this record because he almost died. That’s a rather dramatic way to open an introduction to your album, or a review, but his inspiration for this release was being caught in a snowstorm and whiteout conditions whilst in the French Alps. One might very well make the assumption that the music within the record will be heavy, cloying, dark ambient constructions filled with fear and morbid introspection, but the opposite largely appears to be true, as Richard instead focuses on the details and the minutiae of his surroundings rather than the tenuous situation at hand.

Opener “(Fall)” introduces us to the acute minimalism of the album as it immediately dives in at the failing visibility beginning of our story, careful to make note of the distinct lack of textural inclusions within its span, the absence of any useful or meaningful information in our surroundings, obliterated by snow. A hissing static unfolds in the backfield, a cornerstone of many of the tracks, supplemented by processed and fragmented drone elements and field recordings; every gurgle of water and crunch of the snow under our feet suddenly hyper-acute and important. The mind begins to play tricks as well, perhaps, in followup “The Colour of Winter” as it introduces bursts of voices and children’s distant murmurings intermittently, each one snatched away by the wind as abruptly as they appear. There’s something vaguely nostalgic in the sound though, something in the delicate presentation and increasing warmth through the track as its textures peak and birdsong arrives at the end that feels weirdly hopeful and optimistic, like an active retrospection.

This sound is at odds with the expected mournful and depressed air of this album, which does make an appearance despite everything. “Warm Now” feels like the slow realisation of the succumbing to hypothermia as it spins out delicate webs of vaguely menacing and melancholic drones, suddenly low-fidelity and arrived in pulses of activity, moments of lucidity in an otherwise fading mind. They go well with the alarm bells that ring suddenly and shockingly out through this hazy void, and supplement the murmuring of concerned and far-away voices that settle deep in the mix, full of tension and worry as they whisper unintelligible nothings wondering how and where we are. It goes well with one of the album’s strongest pieces, the beautiful 8 minuter “Drifting, Almost Covered” where violin makes a mournful and heavy appearance in its slow drones and increasingly decaying production. The sound of rustling rain and snow becomes thicker and heavier as the piece goes on, an increasing sense of urgency unfolding as the snow gets deeper and our energy is depleted. Truly a striking track.

In between the two is the anxious couplet of “Beneath Out Feet” and “Far From Home”, both entertaining similar sonic tropes as the former merges gracefully into the latter, its slow builds and delicate tinklings making way for more empowered guitar lines and stuttering, rolling glitch noises. Despite the chaos there’s a fragile beauty to both the pieces that’s slowly tempered and ballooning, gaining traction especially in the latter moments of “Far From Home” as things suddenly clear and shimmery, elongate drone notes rise in beautiful and hopeful celebration. It pairs well with the closer “(Rise)” which bookends the album, reinforcing those hopeful moments and abandoning the many fugues summoned up across its duration. There’s a certain elegance and smoothness to the music here; no longer shambling randomly along to the staccato glitch and confused, fragmented drone it glides sleekly on an icy placid drone line as bright little instrumental kisses break its surface, all falling softly away as we return home and to safety at last.

Certainly the context of the album changes its interpretation significantly, especially since it almost feels at times like the sequence of the record is perhaps a little off, or does that perhaps simply reinforce it? The narrative as confused and tumultuous as the ordeal itself? I like this record as an experience, it’s deeply immersive in its storytelling, but I’m not sure I’m quite sold on the individual pieces outside of their home, with the exception of “Drifting, Almost Covered”; out of their framework they’re quite weak and it’s only when the album comes together as a single entity is their value really shown, but otherwise a solid album.

You can find the album on his Bandcamp page here.

Leyland Kirby – The Death of Rave (A Partial Flashback) (History Always Favours The Winners – 2014)

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In 2006, Leyland Kirby under his rather prolific V/Vm alias created a titanic 9 hour release entitled The Death of Rave (with another 9 or so of bonus material), filled with Dark Ambient and noisy Drone creations built from twisted relics of rave tunes and beats. To be clear I’ve not listened to The Death of Rave, since its timespan is just beyond ridiculous, but Kirby’s habit of manipulating music for his own purposes piqued my interest in this case and luckily he’s returned to create something wholly more digestible, taking what I can only assume are some of the better or more meaningful moments from the original and putting them into this much more bitesized release.

That being said, simply because he’s taken some of what I can only assume to be the more personally meaningful moments based on the track titles doesn’t necessarily mean that the music itself is entirely cohesive; many of them share little with one another except that they are populated with an overbearing wall of distressed noise that seems want to suppress any melodic content below, not that there is a great deal of it. It’s hard to believe that any of the pieces presented here originated in a club and rave environment; opener “Monroes Stockport” is a slowly creeping mass of expanding drone sequences and listless glitch awash in a sea of reverb, no trace of some bombastic, drug fuelled sound in sight. It shares little sonically with any of its album companions however, carving its own niche just like the rest, which is, I suppose, admirable. Perhaps “Smithy & Dave the Rave” is comparable, with its loud walls of expressive noise mirroring some of those earlier drones, the difference being that the curtains part to peek at a beautiful and delicate synth melody hidden within, its fondness and elegiac tones quickly stifled but never entirely quelled as the piece decays into a sad and shimmery silence.

There are some shards of perhaps the original, inspired melodies captured in a few tracks though; “Marple Libradome ’91” is the best example of this as it propels itself on a bed of deep sub-bass and distant, faded, throbbing basslines, hidden beneath a carefully manipulated synth melody smeared into oblivion and barely detectable through the drone fuzz that it’s become, barely clinging onto life. There’s a pace and urgency to this one that is perhaps lacking in many of the others, a sense that time is maybe running out before it’s sonic appeal is lost forever. The tribal and electro-mechanical abominations that “Big Eddies Van – Bowlers Car Park” evoke show similar tendencies towards some original work; it’s an oppressive piece that I really don’t enjoy but one can’t deny that it has fascinatingly rhythmic shakings and rattlings of unknown description that stutter the track along, supplemented by the heavy and echoic movement of some monstrously ticking clock.

The other tracks all follow variations on a theme but with their own spin on the crushing drone that realises their visions; “Moggy & Wearden” is a rather openly nostalgic piece that proceeds the opener with big but jaded and distal drones that have sort of lost their impetus in their long trip through time, coming through as bleary and ancient vistas of smeared sound that’s oddly serene in presentation, but that’s where the lightweight material ends since “Acid Alan, Haggis & Scott” obliterates any sense of melody as it cruises on dark currents of bass and mean, crushed noise walls that seem to juxtapose the fond wist of rave we’ve heard thus far and embrace its abandonment within its chaotic and cathartic space. The closer “XR2 mk1 Sale Waterpark” takes a similar line as it takes off instantly in its eviscerating, jet engine explosion of initial noise, softly shifting as it evolves to highlight the more delicate and naive synth shimmers that mirror it below and the wailing, depressing noises it turns into. Its clearance leaves us with a tired and old drone remnant below that does nothing other than fade to black, a melancholic fragment that can do nothing except die.

I like that Kirby explores both sides of the coin here; he accepts that Rave is dead but there is still some wistfulness of those golden days of electronic music he fondly remembers from his youth, stoned hazes of impossible sounds and experiences. But he also highlights not only the brash and impromptu nature of the culture/music itself but also its abandonment in favour of normal clubs, a shift in perception that seems to have occurred remarkably quickly and how it’s faded from public consciousness. I’ve listened to it a lot but I think it’s more because it’s a fascinating sonic experience rather than out of actual enjoyment; in reality it’s a rather disjointed and incohesive affair but it’s filled with such textural detail it’s hard to avoid getting sucked in when every listen provides something new to latch on to.