CV & JAB: Zin Taylor — Thoughts of a Dot as it Travels a Surface (LP, Shelter Press, February 2018)

When I discover a record I really like by an artist with a few releases under their belt, it’s tempting to go back and binge on their back-catalogue. I normally try to resist, having found that it mostly leads to disappointment, and often dilution of the pleasure of the music that kicked the whole thing off. So, despite having loved Christina Vantzou’s No. 4 recently, I resisted the urge to go back and hoover up Nos. 1 through 3.

But I did check out this recent live performance by Vantzou and John Also Bennett (who also played on No. 4) and, you know what, it’s really good, too. It’s a very different record. No. 4 had an impressive list of collaborators and instruments. This is just the two of them with synths, ‘virtual instruments’ (CV), more synths, flute, and piano (JAB). No. 4 has a rich, layered strangeness. This has a sparse, abstract strangeness. It was performed in a gallery, as a response to works by Zin Taylor, or perhaps we’re meant to say as a reconceptualization of those works, or something like that… anyway, it does seem to fit the abstract simplicity of the drawings, and comes with a nice 1.8m-long leporello which you can, I don’t know, look at while you listen to the music, I guess. The music itself is proceeds at a stately pace, and it’s more about the textures and the shapes than about the melodies, but it’s full of lovely little surprises — I love the sound of lapping water which appears somewhere near the end, for example — and it’s thoroughly immersive. In places, it reminds me of another recent live duet, Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Glass — or, reaching further back, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and Ariel Kalma’s We Know Each Other Somehow. It’s one of those records that I love a little bit more each time I listen to it, and lingers in my memory for a good while afterwards, and those are very good things.

I bought this from the label’s bandcamp page.

Kassel Jaeger, Stephan Mathieu, Akira Rabelais: Zauberberg (LP, Shelter Press, February 2016)

I’m going to call this “environmental ambient”, a term I may or may not have just invented, and by which I mean that it strongly evokes a particular scenario — in this case, the Swiss Alpine setting of Thomas Mann’s 1924 novel Der Zauberberg (aka The Magic Mountain). It does this through a mixture of field recordings, samplings of the music referenced in the book including authentic gramophone noises, some minimal piano pieces (presumably from Rabelais?), and significant studio wizardry. And it is, indeed, powerfully evocative of that scenario, to charming and deeply calming effect.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Modern Classical / Ambient, Electronic.

Gabriel Saloman: Movement Building Vol. 2 (LP, Shelter Press, October 2015)

If I have one complaint about this album from (sorry) the less well-known half of Yellow Swans, it’s simply that at 31 minutes it’s too short. Otherwise, it’s magnificent. It’s primarily guitar drones and percussion, although for much of the first part of the record it sounds like the guitar is being bowed or scraped somehow. Album opener Contained Battle / Ascend features a sort of wondrous howling over a tribal drumming. Ear Piercer and Mountain Music are dominated by sparse, abstract percussion — resonant chimes, which create a powerfully ritualistic feeling, feature strongly on the former, and a heavy bass drum on the latter. The climax is reached on the 11-minute Gagaku, which slowly becomes more densely layered until, at about the 6-minute mark, a warm, fuzzy guitar melody gently appears: that particular noise inevitably invokes the mighty Christian Fennesz, although this is definitely late-period anthemic Fennesz à la Bécs, and powerfully uplifting it is too. The closing track is a little bit different: it’s seemingly a heavily-processed take on a Miles Davis recording of My Funny Valentine, all vinyl crackle and submerged dynamics and woozy trumpet, it’s very Leyland Kirby, not at all gimmicky, and strangely affecting. All in all, a fantastic record, warm and approachable despite its experimental nature, that leaves me wanting more.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Ambient / Drone.