The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Brian has a thing about trees. Can’t stop looking at them. I’ve been abroad with him when he’s been in rapture over an avenue of pine tress. ‘Look at them, Bill,’ he’d say. ‘Aren’t they beautiful! People don’t appreciate beauty these days. They look at everything but they don’t really see. Who really looks at trees and sees their shapes and colours? They’re magic! That’s what it’s all about! - Bill Clough talking about his brother, Brian.
Ah now, this is the stuff - a blog dedicated to biographies of great British trees. Little more needs to be said. Go see.
Mountain*7 - for the person with nothing better to do
Label: Barge Recordings
To some/many, concentrating on the lambent, aesthetic qualities of the drone is the least interesting mode of exploration of this peculiar and beguiling form of music; or at least, so the narrative goes, concentrating on these qualities ignores the theoretical structures and near-occult gravity the likes of La Monte Young and Elian Radigue (and, more recently, Eleh) brought and bring to bear on the idea of the drone. What it tends to mean is that any artistry and subtlety gets passed over and when confronted with the soft, wheeling keyboard washes and treated guitars the likes of which Pausal deal with, you often hear complaints along the lines of ‘this is such and such lite’ or ‘it’s the easy end of experimental music’. All of which, to me, seems to utterly miss the point. Judged on its own terms, a record like Lapses is a study in warmth and delicacy and its cumulative effect is quietly stunning.
Pausal are duo from the Hampshire wilds, and have been around in one form or another for 5 or so years, releasing their first EP back in 2007. That EP (M*7 review) was expanded and re-packaged for release on High Point Low Life in 2009. As stated above, they tend towards the softer, lighter end of drone and ambient music (something akin to a more bucolic Stars of the Lid), creating painterly, impressionistic washes of light and colour. And whilst Lapses is a long album - with one of the individual tracks reaching towards the fifteen minute mark – the key is in how the duo approach precisely this light touch and how they manage the gradual build and release of their tracks, and the layers of treated sound. Like Mountains, a band I saw them support last year, the art is in the warmth, and the uplift.
And isn’t this kind of warmth and uplift and artistry in and of itself? Not an Eno-like dream to hang half unseen middle-distance but a genuine engagement with brighter tones and the wide light of the upper reaches? The tendency towards a darker throb in drone music must be a heady temptation to avoid – to hang a note out for longer than necessary (as Wim Wenders once said of deciding when to close a shot ‘when people think they’ve seen enough of something, but there’s more, and no change of shot, they react in a curiosly livid way’), to give in to that anxiety of influence and point the thing towards some corporeal vortex. With Lapses, Pausal don’t avoid the negative so much as string it up and send it aloft.
With that in mind, a nine-minute song like ‘Malnourished Minds’ with its shimmering treated guitars and (what sounds like) brushed cello washes, or the enervated pairing of ‘One Watery Lens’ and ‘Midshipman’ (the latter with soft rain field recordings) are not so much gravid with portentous weight, but bright and optimistic, which even as I write it seems like an unusual description for music in this field. So track down Lapses if you can (it’s out now on Barge) and even better get to see them live.
Download/Listen: Pausal - Lapsing