Artist: Jenny Hval
Label: Rune Grammofon
The profoundest secret is that which is enacted in the body – Elias Canetti
Viscera is Jenny Hval’s first release under her own name (she has previously released two albums as Rockettothesky) and her first for Rune Grammofon. It’s a highly ambitious project that looks to explore the relationship between body and space, between high-concept ideas such as the Modernist I and the Modernist eye, and the effects of travel and stasis on the most intimate areas of our minds, and of our bodies. Sonically, it’s a fascinating mix of the experimental and the warm and lush, echoing the Cocteaus, Kate Bush and even spectral folk figures from the early part of the 1970s such as Linda Perhacs. Like any project with such far-reaching ambitions it teeters at times on the brink of tipping into melodrama and pretension but Hval manages the terrain skilfully. It’s a fascinating record.
Read the rest of the review over at The Liminal.
Mountain*7 - for the person with nothing better to do
I'd fully intended on making myself an old school metal compilation on this day of days (can't stop listening to old death metal for whatever reason: Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower, Deicide etc), but instead I was hijacked firstly by Keith Jarrett in all his awesome gauche bellenditude, then by Keith Fullerton Whitman. The latters' new track on Soundcloud is astoundingly good. You can play it below. Also found the entirety of Lisbon online, his 42-minute concert recording from 2006 - listen to this, too, and listen to it LOUD.
2011.4.18.11.21.32 by kfw
Keith Fullerton Whitman - Lisbon
Label: Thrill Jockey
For a relatively new band, Liturgy come with a lot of baggage. Some of that is critical-acclaim, for sure; but a good deal of the rest has billowed up around their high-concept approach to their music, and their – well, vocalist and guitarist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s – relatively high-profile theorising around the band’s self-mythologised ‘transcendental black metal’. Simply type the term into Google and see the sneering responses it’s engendered, the accusations of hipsterism it’s created – and the broiling vilification it’s received from much of the black metal community. It kind of goes without saying that this is something of a shame as it gets in the way of listening to the band. And in truth, they’re a hell of a proposition.
Read the rest of the review over at The Liminal.
Artist: Tim Noble
Label: Hundred Acre Recordings
I recently reviewed Tim Noble's superb Diffaith for The Liminal. I've reprinted the whole thing here as it fits in with some of the themes I've been exploring for the last well, ever.
Diffaith (Welsh) 1. wilderness n.m. desert n.m. waste adj. desert adj. base adj. mean adj.
In my room the world is beyond my understanding/ but when I walk, I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud – Wallace Stevens
Is it possible that at certain times we are drawn towards certain landscapes, landscapes that answer a particular question we have posed ourselves, or that may sluice away some blockage within ourselves? Is there something inherent in specific patterns of contours, in the dells and cambers of unique topographies that goes beyond mere facts of geology and geography? Is that possible? The counter to this would be that what we’re doing in these situations is merely projection, the mapping outwards of a series of internal geographies, geographies shaped from the grit and loam of our interior lives. But maybe this is the point after all – that the key is in this merging of these two spaces, and quiescence (a kind of hovering stillness) or revelation comes with this most complex of unions. This is when we are in the world.
Tim Noble was originally a native of Derbyshire, but drifted towards the far west of Wales and eventually settled in Aberystwyth. Noble is also a part of the duo The Lowland Hundred who released a fine debut album last year, Under Cambrian Sky. That album explored the peninsula around Aberystwyth in West Wales, calling forth ghosts of the past, mythic and otherwise. Diffaith’s relationship to the land is more elemental and personal. East of Aberystwyth is a tract of wild country, windblown and empty. Colloquially it is known as the desert of Wales – not because of a lack of rainfall but because of this character of emptiness. It is harsh country. Noble was alerted to the presence of an old chapel in the hills in this area, its walls incorporating a 5000 year old standing stone included by the Christian artisans as a sop to the local pagans. Intrigued, he decided to seek it out. During the course of several trips into the countryside, Noble came to realise that the landscape was consuming him in some way, drawing him into more frequent visits, and visits of increasingly longer durations. Gradually as he came to know the area intimately, he realised it was becoming a site of transformation, and that he was bound to it until he could work through whatever questions it was posing, and he in turn was posing to it.
Without wishing to over-burden things, there is something of the Romantic sensibility in this, something of Coleridge’s obsession with ‘the wild’ and how it could be ‘an energy which blows through one’s being, causing the self to shift into new patterns, opening up alternative perceptions of life’, and there is also something of Camus’ Sisyphus. Camus saw this (metaphorical and actual) journey to the desert as a fundamental confrontation, what he called coming to ‘the last place of enquiry’ where the voyager finds ‘the certainties of life are but rocks around him’. Yet, much like Camus’s protagonist and Coleridge’s vaunted nature-man, as Noble’s journeys into the landscape continued, he realised that what he was experiencing wasn’t the end of things, but actually a kind of awakening. Noble’s response was to record this process, partly from memory and partly on location.
Diffaith, recorded in a rush of momentum, is the result. It consists of 6 tracks, each connected to a particular location or landscape, plus three complimentary short films, and a series of images. Musically it is raw and abstracted, a collection of toothed declivities and quiet wastes, and in places it flails against itself, rages and broils; but it has the feel of a coming-to-consciousness and, finally, of resolution and of light. The extra media the project contains, the film responses from Sam Christie, Noble’s images and some textual offerings from Kate Woodward and Peter Ward, plus the maps and linguistic guides to the places and landscapes involved, only add to this sense of a votive offering: it becomes like a guide, a vade mecum for a life’s journey.
Unsurprisingly, Diffaith isn’t an easy listen, indeed in places it is positively difficult to listen to; but it’s got an unflinching honesty about it (how could it be otherwise?). It begins at ‘Llyn Conach’, a remote lake sunk in a valley in the Cambrian Mountains. The track has a surface of queasy bells, struck and treated, echoing out across the available sonic space. There is barely-there guitar work, notes rising into the mix via manipulated volume control, and there are other intrusions, strange creakings and rustlings just beneath the surface. The primary effect is of a kind of spooked stillness, a contemplative gaze disturbed by the presence of so much open space, and the looming of the surrounding mountains. How much of this is present in the music, and how much is suggested by the extraneous media attached to the track is unclear, but the effect is startling. ‘Llyn Conach’ is of a piece with the second track ‘Blaenmelindwr’, which transplants the focus to a remote abandoned house, similarly bounded by the landscape on all sides. Here the creaks have the sinister resonance of footfalls, and a not-quite tonal melodica strain conveys the presence of something just out of one’s eyeline, or just out of earshot.
The centrepiece is a vast, monstrous thing, named for the blasted valley floor of ‘Llawr-y-cwm-bach’. The track is dominated by long periods of near-silence, punctuated with huge walls of Stephen O’Malley-like guitar that threaten to tear the fabric of the track apart. If Noble’s aim was to make it sound as if the very land were voicing some primeval shriek then he has succeeded. Christ alone knows what went on down there, but this sounds like a howl from the void. Eno talked about having nostalgia for a place you have never been – well, this is fear of a place you have never been and, in honesty, fear for what was experienced there. It’s terrifying.
It is a relief that Diffaith comes back from this – sonically and otherwise. ‘Plas y Mynydd’ is like a wake after the roaring anguish of ‘Llawr-y-cwm-bach’, a slow procession; but it’s the bright and gentle dappling of ‘Disgwylfa Fach’ that provides the project with the feeling of definite closure. It is built around a simple piano motif, a motif that blends with field recordings of light rainfall. The track also contains recordings of distant thunder, but the elements have lost their sinister edge, have lost their bite: the world recedes a touch and the breath comes more easily.
I have tried and failed to find useful descriptors for Diffaith, and in the end they are largely useless. Thematically, it explores some of the same ground as the work of Richard Skelton, and it could be said to inhabit similar areas to the work of artist Richard Long. But sonically it doesn’t really sound like anyone else. Instead it sounds, as intended, like earth and weather, like stumbling mapless and blind through rough lands; it sounds like someone going away and coming back. In the liner notes, we’re told that the the title of the closing track, ‘Disgwylfa Fach’, literally means ‘a small lookout’, and in the end I wonder if that’s enough. All we need: somewhere small and safe and warm to watch from; somewhere to make sense of our parade of days.
Diffaith is out now as a digital download, which you can get from Hundred Acre Recordings, and you can see and listen to the whole project on Tim Noble’s website.